Lawmakers on Friday called upon the Department of Veterans Affairs's Inspector General to investigate the role and influence on the agency of several prominent members of Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida, who were described as de facto "shadow rulers" of the VA in an explosive ProPublica investigation published on Tuesday.
- In a letter to VA IG Michael Missal, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Brian Schatz requested the OIG investigate Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and lawyer Marc Sherman "to understand whether unqualified, unaccountable private citizens with no official government role or responsibilities had or continue to have undue influence over VA decisions."
- "There are numerous examples of what appear to be clear abuses of ethics and misuse of government resources for private gain," Warren and Schatz wrote. Adding, "the accounts ... if true, paint a disturbing picture of corruption and cronyism that is not only antithetical to transparent, accountable, and ethical government, but will make it more difficult for the Secretary to lead the VA in a way that allows him to exercise his independent judgment."
- According to the ProPublica investigation, the so-called "troika" of Trump buddies known as "the Mar-A-Lago Crowd" to VA insiders "hovered over public servants without any transparency, accountability or oversight."
- "The Mar-a-Lago Crowd spoke with VA officials daily, the documents show, reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions," ProPublica reports.
- In response to the story, VA spokesman Curt Cashour told ProPublica that the “broad range of input from individuals both inside and outside VA has helped us immensely over the last year and a half," while a White House spokesman said the three Mar-a-Lago members "have no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Warren and Schatz aren't the only ones pushing for an investigation into the troika's influence over the VA. On Aug.9, a group of 16 Democratic senators, Schatz included, authored a letter urging newly-minted VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to take action as well.
"We want you to succeed, and veterans need you to succeed," the senators wrote. "For that to happen, you will need to right the ship at VA by reassuring the nonpartisan career employees that their institutional knowledge and dedication is valued, and by ensuring that everyone under your direction operates with one principle in mind – to serve the nation’s veterans and not anyone’s political interests.”
Read the whole letter below: