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Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images

Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, did not wait long after being fired by President Trump before going to the New York Times, as he had done on several occasions during his time in the administration, to tell his side of the story:

"The environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve... I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity. Unfortunately, none of that mattered. As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country."
— Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in an NYT op-ed

Take note: This kind of freelancing to the NYT and other media outlets was at the center of both Trump's and chief of staff John Kelly's frustrations with the Secretary.

Key excerpts from Shulkin's op-ed:

  • "I believe strongly in the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nothing about my political experience in Washington could ever change that."
  • "During my tenure at the department, we have accomplished a tremendous amount... It seems that these successes within the department have intensified the ambitions of people who want to put V.A. health care in the hands of the private sector."
  • "Until the past few months, veteran issues were dealt with in a largely bipartisan way... Unfortunately, the department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans."
  • "I am a physician, not a politician. I came to government with an understanding that Washington can be ugly, but I assumed that I could avoid all of the ugliness by staying true to my values. I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way."

Read it in full.

Shulkin's media blitz didn't end with the NYT. He also went on NPR Thursday morning where he said he thinks the Trump administration is trying to muzzle him "to make sure that I wasn't as effective as a leader moving forward."

Go deeper

First look: Mayors press Biden on immigration

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A coalition of nearly 200 mayors and county executives is challenging Joe Biden and the incoming Congress to adopt a progressive immigration agenda that would give everyone a pathway to citizenship.

Why it matters: The group's goals, set out in a white paper released today, seem to fall slightly to the left of what the president-elect plans to propose on Inauguration Day — though not far — and come at a time of intense national polarization over immigration.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
7 mins ago - Health

Demand for coronavirus vaccines is outstripping supply

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Now that nearly half of the U.S. population could be eligible for coronavirus vaccines, America is facing the problem experts thought we’d have all along: demand for the vaccine is outstripping supply.

Why it matters: The Trump administration’s call for states to open up vaccine access to all Americans 65 and older and adults with pre-existing conditions may have helped massage out some bottlenecks in the distribution process, but it’s also led to a different kind of chaos.

Woman who allegedly stole laptop from Pelosi's office to sell to Russia is arrested

Photo: FBI

A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.

Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.