Mar 28, 2018

Trump fires Veterans Affairs secretary

President Trump has fired his embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. On Twitter today he said he's going to nominate Ronny Jackson, the physician to the president, for the role. As Axios' Jonathan Swan wrote on Sunday, Shulkin's days were numbered due to ongoing drama at the department over spending and personnel.

Why this matters via Swan: Trump loves Jackson, thinks he’s a great guy and did a terrific job behind the podium when he delivered Trump’s medical results. Trump regarded that appearance as a triumph, according to sources with direct knowledge. This appointment is yet another example of how personal relationships — and Trump’s personal comfort level — are the whole ballgame.

  • But, but, but.... White House officials are well aware of Jackson's lack of experience running large organizations — the VA is the second-largest federal agency. Defense official Robert Wilkie, who will serve as acting secretary pending Jackson's confirmation, is very well regarded and administration officials wouldn't be concerned if he had to stay on a while during a drawn out confirmation for Jackson.

Details on Jackson provided by the White House:

  • Attended Texas A&M University and University of Texas Medical Branch. Began active duty naval service in 1995
  • Operational assignments included, instructor at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida; det. officer in charge and diving medical officer at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 in Sigonella, Italy; and diving safety officer at the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk.
  • Served residency in emergency medicine at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center and then assigned as clinical faculty in the Emergency Medicine Residency Program at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • Served in a forward deployed Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon in Taqaddum, Iraq.
  • White House physician for second term of George W. Bush, both terms of Barack Obama.
  • Jackson does not have reported experience running an agency equivalent to the size of the VA, the second largest agency in the federal government.

Shulkin's turbulent ride at the White House:

  • The VA's inspector general reported last month that Shulkin used taxpayer dollars to pay for his wife to go to Europe.
  • He started handling his own media relations because he doesn't trust the agency's communications staff.
  • The White House was befuddled by Shulkin's media appearances. Senior officials were especially furious when he told Politico that he had their blessing to clean house.

The first sentence of this story has been corrected to say Jackson is the White House physician, not Trump's personal physician.

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