President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Robert Wilkie, the current acting VA secretary, to oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday — an announcement that, as USA Today notes, will likely be a surprise to Wilkie.
“He doesn’t know this yet,” Trump stated during a May 18 White House event. “I’m sorry that I ruined the surprise.”
- Who he is: Wilkie, previously the undersecretary for defense personnel and readiness, has served as acting VA chief since March following the ouster of Dr. David Shulkin and amid the fraught nomination of Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who withdrew his name from consideration amid allegations of improper and toxic behavior during his time on the job.
- No surprises? Wilkie was first nominated for and confirmed to a senior DoD position back in 2006, when thorough vetting for political appointees was still standard operating procedure in the executive branch. In light of the Jackson debacle, the White House was reportedly examining three potential nominees, including Wilkie, in a significantly more thoughtful research process, per The Hill.
- Jackson was an aberration anyway: It’s likely that Wilkie will get a far more rigorous vetting than Jackson did: According to a March 29 report from The Washington Post, the White House had originally planned to announce Wilkie as Shulkin’s temporary replacement, but Trump “preempted the plan when he tweeted that he intended to nominate Jackson, administration officials.”
- A VA ‘finally on the same page’ … “Under Acting Secretary Wilkie’s leadership, senior VA officials are now on the same page, speaking with one voice to Veterans, employees and outside stakeholders, such as Congress and veterans service organizations, and are focused on a number of key priorities in the short term,” VA press secretary Curt Cashour said in a statement.
- … about privatization? As T&P’s James Clark previously reported, veterans’ organizations circled the wagons during Shulkin’s twilight months over concerns about the privatization of the country’s largest medical provider.
Let’s just hope Wilkie wasn’t on the toilet when he got the news.