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VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Fox Business Network’s "The Evening Edit" on Jan. 7. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal said Thursday he had opened an investigation into VA Secretary Robert Wilkie after lawmakers demanded an inquiry into his handling of a sexual misconduct report, the Washington Post reports.

Context: Wilkie allegedly "worked to discredit" the credibility of Democratic aide and veteran Andrea Goldstein after she reported last fall "that a man groped and propositioned her in the main lobby of the agency's D.C. Medical Center," a senior VA official told the Post.

  • Goldstein is senior policy adviser on female veterans issues to Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
  • Takano was told by a senior VA official that Wilkie had discovered Goldstein reported several sexual misconduct allegations while serving in the Navy, and that he suggested to staff that they use this history to discredit her, per the Post.

The big picture: Three sources close to the situation told Axios that the White House was disappointed by the way Wilkie and the VA handled the situation. Under pressure, Wilkie asked for Deputy Secretary James Byrne's resignation earlier this month, though the VA denies that Byrne's dismissal was related to the sexual assault case.

The other side: The independent inspector general told VA leadership that his office is reviewing the allegations, VA press secretary Christina Mandreucci told Axios. The department said it will cooperate fully with the lawsuit.

  • "To be clear, the only investigation into Ms. Goldstein’s allegations was that of the independent inspector general and U.S. Attorney — an investigation Sec. Wilkie requested immediately upon learning of the allegations," Mandreucci said, noting that the investigation "was closed with no charges filed."

What they're saying:

"Media reports on a complaint made to the House Veterans Affairs Committee allege that between October 2019 and January 2020, Secretary Wilkie sought damaging information about the veteran, including attempting to investigate her military record. Additionally, according to media reports, the Secretary discussed the information he had collected with other VA officials and even a member of Congress, and suggested to Department public affairs officials that the
information could be used to undermine the veterans' allegations."
letter to the IG

Go deeper: The VA's silencing of whistleblowers

Go deeper

Scoop: FDA chief called to West Wing

Stephen Hahn. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has summoned FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing for a 9:30am meeting Tuesday to explain why he hasn't moved faster to approve the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, two senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting is shaping up to be tense, with Hahn using what the White House will likely view as kamikaze language in a preemptive statement to Axios: "Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision."

Scoop: Schumer's regrets

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images   

Chuck Schumer told party donors during recent calls that the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fact that Cal Cunningham "couldn't keep his zipper up" crushed Democrats' chances of regaining the Senate, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats are hoping for a 50-50 split by winning two upcoming special elections in Georgia. But their best chance for an outright Senate majority ended when Cunningham lost in North Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins won in Maine.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

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