GAO to investigate whether Mar-a-Lago members had undue influence at VA

GAO to investigate whether Mar-a-Lago members had undue influence at VA
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has accepted a request from two senators to investigate whether a group of Mar-a-Lago members wielded undue influence over Trump administration policies at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The GAO will probe whether a few Mar-a-Lago members close to President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE, who owns the Florida resort, weighed in on the timing and content of a digital health records overhaul at the VA. 

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Democratic Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenConsumer bureau revokes payday lending restrictions Tammy Duckworth hits back at Tucker Carlson: 'Walk a mile in my legs' Trump criticizes Redskins, Indians over potential name changes MORE (Mass.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology MORE (Hawaii) in August sent a letter to the GAO requesting the investigation, citing a ProPublica report that concluded three of Trump's "Mar-a-Lago cronies" were "secretly shaping the Trump administration's veterans policies." 

"These accounts and others detailed in the ProPublica investigation, if true, paint a disturbing picture of corruption and cronyism that is not only antithetical to transparent, accountable, and ethical government, but will make it more difficult for the Secretary to lead the VA in a way that allows him to exercise his independent judgment," Warren and Schatz wrote in their letter.

The GAO, in a response to the senators on Nov. 19, wrote that the requested investigation is "within the scope of its authority." It estimated that watchdog office will be able to "initiate an engagement in about five months." 

According to the ProPublica investigation, three members of Trump's private Mar-a-Lago resort — Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz and Marc Sherman — regularly made demands of VA officials and "view[ed] themselves as making the decisions."  

Warren's office in an email on Monday said that she "applauds the [GAO] for its decision to investigate whether unqualified, unaccountable private citizens — cronies of President Trump — with no official government role or responsibilities had or continue to have any undue influence over [VA] decisions."