Trump, Zuckerberg hold 'constructive' meeting at White House
VA officials labeled recommendations from Mar-a-Lago members 'ridiculous': report
Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs blasted policy recommendations from members of President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club as "ridiculous," according to documents released by a Washington, D.C. governmental ethics watchdog.
In more than 300 pages of emails obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) through a Freedom of Information Act request, career VA officials expressed frustration about having to entertain suggestions from Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, attorney Marc Sherman and Palm Beach-area doctor Bruce Moskowitz.
In one email, a senior department official tells staffers Sherman does not "understand the context of government nor does he understand the [app development] contract," and that due to his presence, those involved in the process are "talking past each other."
Another email, responding to an official questioning how they should address "ridiculous" questions, advised the official, "They are coming from POTUS friend/doctor ... Handle sensitively and with facts."
"To me the session tomorrow is just a grin and bear it session. I will have my listening hat on for two hours," another email says in reference to an upcoming meeting with two of the men.
The three's influence on the VA was already publicly known, with a 2018 Pro Publica investigation finding they lobbied for increased use of private-sector services within the VA.
The three have denied they influenced policy beyond giving advice, telling Pro Publica, "While we were always willing to share our thoughts, we did not make or implement any type of policy, possess any authority over agency decisions, or direct government officials to take any actions."
However, emails obtained by CREW show widespread confusion at the VA about the three men's level of authority.
"He is a White House advisor. I don't know much about him other than he is important," one official says of Moskowitz in the emails.
The Hill has reached out to the VA and the White House for comment.