Trump Wants Army Veteran Pete Hegseth to Replace VA Secretary Shulkin

Trump Wants Army Veteran Pete Hegseth to Replace VA Secretary Shulkin

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Wednesday he had no interest in becoming the next head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, flatly rejecting speculation that he would soon take over the position amid rapidly eroding White House support for embattled VA Secretary David Shulkin.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has come under fire for his lavish taxpayer-funded travel and his leadership of the department.

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Two sources familiar with White House discussions, who spoke to the Associated Press (AP) on the condition of anonymity, said Trump has considered moving Energy Secretary Rick Perry to the VA to "right the ship".

As Trump seeks to widen a changing of the guard that started Tuesday with his firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Shulkin could be next, the advisers said.

In recent weeks, Shulkin has put distance between himself and these political appointees, including those who run the agency's press operations, and has been essentially running a one-man crisis communications effort on his own behalf, telling multiple news organizations, including CNN, about efforts to oust him.

Trump hosted Perry at the White House for lunch Monday, but no formal job offer was made, the source says. While early in his tenure Shulkin gained bipartisan acclaim for cleaning up a blighted agency, he began to butt heads more and more with political appointees over moving care outside the department, which now serves more than 9 million veterans. Anyone else would have understood that as a vote of no confidence and resigned, but Shulkin instead told the Gray Lady that Trump had given him carte blanche to clean house. But officials in the West Wing say that wasn't an accurate way to describe his meeting with Kelly and that afterward Kelly felt Shulkin had taken advantage of their conversation.

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"The President needs to decide whether he is going to empower Secretary Shulkin to do his job", said Sen. Senior White House aides have mounted an internal campaign to convince Trump that the administration's priorities - chief among them his promise to veterans that appointments with private doctors should be more readily accessible - are at odds with Shulkin's.

In February, the VA inspector general released a report that stated Shulkin misused government resources to fund a trip to Europe in the summer.

Shulkin is the only Trump Cabinet member who remains after being held over from the Obama administration.

Last month, the inspector general released a blistering report finding ethical violations in Shulkin's trip last July to Denmark and Britain that mixed business with pleasure. Shulkin was the only one among Trump appointees to be unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, expressed anger over media reports of the pending demise of Shulkin. Wright Simpson retired after the report was issued.

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