Lawmakers Demand Investigation Into Mar-A-Largo's 'Shadow Rulers Of The VA'

Bullet Points
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

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."

Related: Meet ‘The Shadow Rulers Of The VA’: 3 Nonvet Mar-a-Lago Members »

  • 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:

Warren Schatz Letter To VA IG by Jared Keller

(U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland)

GREENBELT, Md. (Reuters) - A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of amassing a cache of weapons and plotting to attack Democratic politicians and journalists was ordered held for two weeks on Thursday while federal prosecutors consider charging him with more crimes.

Read More Show Less
An undated image of Hoda Muthana provided by her attorney, Hassan Shibly. (Associated Press)

Attorneys for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump asking the court to recognize the citizenship of an Alabama woman who left the U.S. to join ISIS and allow she and her young son to return to the United States.

Read More Show Less
U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. (U.S. Army/Zoe Garbarino/Handout via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.

Read More Show Less
Construction crews staged material needed for the Santa Teresa Border Wall Replacement project near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol/Mani Albrecht)

With a legal fight challenge mounting from state governments over the Trump administration's use of a national emergency to construct at the U.S.-Mexico border, the president has kicked his push for the barrier into high gear.

On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted a time-lapse video of wall construction in New Mexico; the next day, he proclaimed that "THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW"

But there's a big problem: The footage, which was filmed more than five months ago on Sep. 18, 2018, isn't really new wall construction at all, and certainly not part of the ongoing construction of "the wall" that Trump has been haggling with Congress over.

Read More Show Less
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

A group comprised of former U.S. military veterans and security contractors who were detained in Haiti on weapons charges has been brought back to the United States and arrested upon landing, The Miami-Herald reported.

The men — five Americans, two Serbs, and one Haitian — were stopped at a Port-au-Prince police checkpoint on Sunday while riding in two vehicles without license plates, according to police. When questioned, the heavily-armed men allegedly told police they were on a "government mission" before being taken into custody.

Read More Show Less