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GOP lawmaker to Trump: Shulkin ‘lacks the moral authority’ to lead VA

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Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) is renewing his calls for Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to resign, saying Shulkin “lacks the moral authority” to lead the department.

In a letter sent to President Trump Thursday, Coffman slammed Shulkin for his alleged “abuse of taxpayer’s funds and government resources” and called on Trump to “relieve Secretary Shulkin of his duties.”

“I also request that you nominate as his replacement a true outsider to the VA’s bureaucracy,” wrote Coffman, who faces a tough reelection battle this November.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report last month that found Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email in an effort to cover up travel expenses racked up by Shulkin’s wife.

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The report found that Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, made changes to an official email to get approval for taxpayer funding for Shulkin’s wife’s flights costing more than $4,000.

It also said Shulkin misused government resources by accepting gifts of Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife when he took a trip to Europe last summer.

Wright Simpson announced her retirement two days after the inspector general’s report came out.

Shulkin initially claimed that Wright Simpson’s email account had been hacked, but on Wednesday the OIG dismissed the suggestion that that breach had anything to do with the expense emails.

“Based upon the facts provided in this OIG report, I believe that Secretary Shulkin clearly lacks the moral authority to lead the VA and the integrity expected of a member of your cabinet,” Coffman wrote to Trump.

“When the leader of a department is seen as willing to violate or stretch the rules to personal advantage, the example set is unacceptable,” he continued. “Inevitably, employees throughout the VA will consider the example set by Secretary Shulkin as a ‘green light’ to avoid accountability, to take opportunities for personal enrichment, or other violations of laws, regulations, and their duties.”

Coffman’s letter comes one day after reports that one of Shulkin’s own top aides has been lobbying lawmakers to get the VA chief fired.

After the report’s release, Shulkin said he reimbursed the federal government for his wife’s travel expenses, but denied any involvement with the tampered emails. He said he would not resign, adding he wouldn’t “be distracted by issues like that” when asked about the report.

Shulkin was tapped by former President Obama to serve as the VA under secretary for health before President Trump nominated him to lead the department last year.

Coffman originally called for Shulkin’s resignation after the inspector general report was first released.

The Colorado Republican has long been an electoral target for Democrats. Former President Obama won his district in 2012 and Hillary Clinton won it in 2016.

A recent poll released by Democratic-leaning pollster Public Policy Polling found candidate Jason Crow (D) holds a 44 percent to 39 percent lead over Coffman heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

Tags David Shulkin Department of Veterans Affairs Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mike Coffman Office of Inspector General Travel expenses VA

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