President Trump shakes Ike Perlmutter's hand before signing an executive order in April 2017. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Three members of President Trump's Mar-a-Lago beach club, led by longtime Trump acquaintance and chairman of Marvel Entertainment Ike Perlmutter, have secretly exerted sweeping influence over the Department of Veteran Affairs, despite having no experience in the U.S. government or military, reports ProPublica.

Why it matters: Documents obtained by ProPublica show that Perlmutter, along with doctor Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman, spoke daily with VA officials and shaped significant policy and personnel decisions, including the nomination of now-ousted VA chief David Shulkin. Some of their advocacy reportedly served their own financial or personal interests, yet their status as informal advisers meant they were not subject to the same ethical oversight as government officials.

In a joint statement, the trio sought to downplay their influence, but interviews and documents suggest that decision-making at the VA ran primarily through them.

"At all times, we offered our help and advice on a voluntary basis, seeking nothing at all in return. While we were always willing to share our thoughts, we did not make or implement any type of policy, possess any authority over agency decisions, or direct government officials to take any actions… To the extent anyone thought our role was anything other than that, we don’t believe it was the result of anything we said or did."

Go deeper

Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence

Roger Stone arriving at his sentencing hearing on Feb. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday evening commuted the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, according to two senior administration officials. Stone in February was sentenced to 40 months in prison for crimes including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

Why it matters: The controversial move brings an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars. He had been scheduled to report to prison on July 14.

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Which states have set single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: COVID Tracking Project and state health department data compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti and Naema Ahmed/Axios

13 states this week surpassed records set just last week for their highest number of coronavirus infections in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project and state health department data. 16 states in total reported new highs.

The big picture: The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't just due to increased testing — particularly where the number of cases has grown fastest over the last month, Axios' Andrew Witherspoon and Caitlin Owens report.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 12,389,660 — Total deaths: 557,279 — Total recoveries — 6,830,596Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 3,169,611 — Total deaths: 133,885 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,856,341Map.
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  4. Trade: Trump says he's no longer considering phase-two trade deal with China because the pandemic damaged the two countries' relationship.
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