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Trump to nominate acting VA secretary to lead department

Trump to nominate acting VA secretary to lead department
© UPI Photo

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE announced Friday he will nominate acting Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to permanently fill the position. 

Trump made the surprise announcement during a White House summit on prison reform as news broke of a deadly school shooting in southeast Texas. 

After addressing the shooting, Trump informed Wilkie, who was sitting in the audience, that he would be the pick to lead the VA. The president said he had not shared the news with Wilkie before making it public.

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"He has done an incredible job at the VA. I’ll be informing him in a little while, he doesn’t know this yet, we’re going to be putting his name up for nomination to be secretary of the Veterans Administration," Trump said.

Wilkie walked to the podium and shook Trump’s hand as the audience stood and applauded. 

Wilkie, 55, is a longtime government official who took over as the acting head of the Veterans Affairs Department when former Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVA inspector general says former top official steered M contract to friend Schumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans Former Trump VA secretary says staffer found plans to replace him in department copier MORE was ousted from his post. He is simultaneously serving as undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness.

Trump had nominated White House physician Ronny Jackson to replace Shulkin, but the nomination was withdrawn amid allegations he had created a hostile work environment, drank on the job and improperly handled prescription drugs. 

The Senate must confirm Wilkie before he can become the permanent VA secretary.

Trump was said to be considering Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Mast fends off Democratic challenge to retain Florida House seat Warren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates MORE (R-Fla.) and former Rep. Jeff MillerJefferson (Jeff) Bingham MillerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden wins Arizona, confers with Dem leaders; Trump tweets It's time to focus on the needs of minority veterans Over 500 clients hired Trump-connected lobbyists so far in 2020 MORE (R-Fla.) for the post. Instead, he went with someone with years of administrative experience. 

Unlike Jackson, Wilkie has gone through the vetting process before when he was nominated for Pentagon posts under Trump and President George W. Bush.

Wilkie will face the challenge of taking over a sprawling agency that has struggled to move past a scandal surrounding wait times for patients at VA medical centers. He must also grapple with a fierce partisan battle over whether to privatize VA health-care services. 

Before serving in the Trump administration, Wilkie was a senior adviser to Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisRep. Mark Walker announces Senate bid in North Carolina Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge MORE (R-N.C.) and also worked under former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). 

Wilkie is the son of an Army artillery commander and is an officer in the Air Force Reserve, according to his Pentagon bio

Updated at 12:32 p.m.