VA secretary says he won't resign, doubles down on claim aide's email was hacked

VA secretary says he won't resign, doubles down on claim aide's email was hacked
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Veterans Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinPress: Acosta, latest to walk the plank Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week Trump sent policy pitch from Mar-a-Lago member to VA secretary: report MORE said Thursday he won’t resign after a scathing inspector general report released the day before said his chief of staff doctored an email to gain approval to use taxpayer dollars to pay travel expenses for Shulkin’s wife.

“No,” Shulkin told reporters when asked if he has considered resigning. “Listen, I came here, I left a very good career in the private sector for one reason, and that’s because I believe so strongly that our veterans deserve better care. I’m going to stay focused on that as long as I’m here to make sure that we’re doing that every day. I’m not going to be distracted by issues like that."

He also doubled down on allegations that the aide’s email was hacked and said the department will investigate if the doctored email was among those that were hacked.

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Shulkin was speaking to reporters after a largely genial House Veterans Affairs Committee in which he acknowledged “the optics of this are not good.”

The hearing came a day after a VA inspector general report about a trip Shulkin took to Europe last year. The investigator said Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, changed an email to make it appear Shulkin was going to be honored at a special dinner during the trip, thus necessitating his wife’s travel.

The report also knocked Shulkin for attending a Wimbledon tennis match using tickets given to him by Victoria Gosling, an adviser for the Invictus Games. Shulkin had described her as a personal friend, but the inspector general said they only met three times before in official settings.

In an interview with Politico on Wednesday night, Shulkin suggested Wright Simpson’s email had been hacked, saying she showed him evidence someone else was sending emails in her name.

On Thursday, Shulkin told reporters that “we know” someone took over Wright Simpson’s email.

“We’ve seen that somebody is impersonating her, and we have to fully investigate that to make sure that we follow the processes,” he said.

Asked whether the doctored email was among those that were sent in her name, Shulkin said he’s “not a forensics expert.”

“That’s one of things we’re looking at,” he said. “But we have found that there are people sending emails from her account that aren’t her. That’s concerning to us.”

Shulkin added that he's spoken with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE about the report and that he has plans to visit the White House later.

One lawmaker, Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R-Colo.), has called for Shulkin’s resignation so far.

After the hearing, Coffman, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, called the hacking claim “amazing to me.”

“He’s been all over the place,” Coffman said of Shulkin’s response to the report. “It is a moving target.”

Coffman also said Shulkin’s answers to the committee did not satisfy him and that he still wants to see Shulkin go.

“He should have been forthright and said, ‘I made a mistake,’” Coffman told reporters. “I think that there’s a culture of corruption at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I just don’t think he’s the one to clean it up.”