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Photo: Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images

Veterans Affairs deputy secretary James Byrne was fired Monday morning, three Trump administration officials tell Axios. The White House confirmed that Byrne is no longer with the administration.

Why it matters: The VA has recently been in inner turmoil. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said he dismissed Byrne "due to loss of confidence in Mr. Byrne’s ability to carry out his duties." Wilkie said the decision "is effective immediately," following Axios' reporting.

Between the lines: The VA has come under fire after a House staff member said she was sexually assaulted at the VA hospital in Washington. The White House was disappointed by the way Wilkie and the VA handled the situation, according to three sources close to the situation.

  • Facing pressure from the White House, Wilkie asked for Byrne's resignation Monday morning, according to the sources.
  • VA press secretary Christina Mandreucci denied that Byrne's dismissal was related to the sexual assault investigation, but did not elaborate further.

The backdrop: The staff member's complaint of sexual assault was investigated by the agency's Office of Inspector General, but no charges were brought.

  • In a letter to the House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano (D-Calif.) last month, Wilkie called the staffer's claims of sexual assault "unsubstantiated" and defended the VA as a "safe place for all veterans."
  • The agency IG Michael Missal then pushed back in a letter to Wilkie, saying he had thoroughly briefed Wilkie and Byrne on the decision: "Reaching a decision to close the investigation with no criminal charges does not mean that the underlying allegation is unsubstantiated," he said.

Byrne was confirmed by the Senate to the position in September with a vote of 81 to 11.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”