David Shulkin testifies at a House subcommittee this month. Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images
Trump's Mar-a-Lago buddy Chris Ruddy made a splash on TV today, telling ABC's "This Week" that the president told him yesterday he expected to make "one or two major changes to his — to his government very soon." Ruddy went on to say that "other White House sources, not the president, tell me that Veterans Affairs Secretary David [Shulkin] is likely to depart the Cabinet very soon."
Here's what I know about the Shulkin situation, from conversations with sources involved in the sensitive discussions and with sources — (not Ruddy) — who've spoken with Trump as recently as yesterday: Trump hasn't made any final decisions yet. The president has, however, lost confidence in the VA Secretary and is strongly inclined towards replacing him.
- Right now, Trump is happy to watch Shulkin twist in the wind for a while. Remember how unhappy we told you John Kelly and others have been about Shulkin's handling of internal problems in his department and especially his freelancing to the New York Times? A prolonged period of job insecurity and public humiliation is a uniquely Trumpian form of payback.
- The White House — specifically the president, Kelly, the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, and the director of Trump's Domestic Policy Council Andrew Bremberg — have been asking allies for names of people they'd recommend to replace Shulkin.
Behind the scenes: Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, another Mar-a-Lago friend of the president's, is playing a major backstage role in shaping Trump's thinking about Shulkin. Perlmutter originally recommended Shulkin to Trump, but a source familiar with his thinking tells me Perlmutter "feels betrayed by Shulkin and regrets ever putting his name in front of the president."
- Trump spent time yesterday with Perlmutter at Mar-a-Lago, and the two discussed various pressing issues at the VA, according to a source with knowledge of their meeting.
- Perlmutter has recommended at least one potential Shulkin replacement to the White House, according to two sources with direct knowledge.