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 TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction 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 Ann WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Warren spends big on staff in high-stakes 2020 gamble On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost MORE (Mass.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI Lawmakers weigh challenges in fighting robocalls 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."