VA Secretary Shulkin watched Wimbledon, took canal cruise with wife on taxpayer dime

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin spent large portions of a trip to Europe in July sightseeing with his wife, revelations that come amid heightened scrutiny over how members of the Trump administration are using taxpayer resources.

Shulkin and his wife, Merle Bari, spent 10 days on a trip to London and Copenhagen, taking in matches at this summer's Wimbledon tennis competition and enjoying a river cruise in between meetings with foreign officials.

The VA secretary requested meetings with Danish officials between July 12 and July 14, and was invited to participate in a conference in London on July 19 with his counterparts from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, The Washington Post reported Friday.

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin
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Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (L) testifies before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee September 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of 'Be There: What more can be done to prevent veteran suicide?' (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin testifies before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee September 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of 'Be There: What more can be done to prevent veteran suicide?' (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WATER MILL, NY - AUGUST 26: Secretary David Shulkin attends 13th Annual Prostate Cancer Foundation's Gala in the Hamptons with a Special Performance by Kool & The Gang at Parrish Art Museum on August 26, 2017 in Water Mill, New York. (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 3: (AFP OUT) U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin speaks during the announcement at The White House in Washington, DC of a new program using video and software technology to provide medical care to veterans at The White House August 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 3: (AFP OUT) Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr.David Shulkin speaks during a Department of Veterans Affairs announcement with U.S. President Donald J. Trump of a new program using video and software technology to provide medical care to veterans at The White House August 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
David Shulkin, secretary of U.S. Veteran Affairs, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Shulkin discussed the transformation of Veterans Affairs being undertaken by the Trump Administration. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images�
(L-R), VA Secretary David Shulkin, and President Donald Trump shake hands, before POTUS signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 in the East Room of the White House, on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May) (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
VA Secretary David J. Shulkin, surrounded by a group of veterans, speaks to reporters outside of the West Wing of the White House, on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May) (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: U.S. President Donald Trump gives the pen he signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 to Afghanistan war veteran and Purple Heart recipient Michael Verardo during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House June 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump credited Congress and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin for getting the legislation into law. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin participates in a discussion during a conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce June 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. The George W. Bush Institute hosted a conference to address veteran issues. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks during the press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) stands withRolling Thrunder, Inc., founder Artie Muller (3rd-R) L) and US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin (R) as opening remarks are delivered at the Pentagon May 28, 2017. of Washington, DC, in honor of Memorial Day. Cabinet members drove Harley Davidisons the full route on the 30th Anniversary of Rolling Thunder, where approximately 900,000 motorcycle riders parade thru the streets / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, looks on before testifying at a House Veteran's Affairs Committee hearing on the FY2018 budget request at the Capitol on May 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks with Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (R) during a listening session about veterans affairs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: Dr. David Shulkin is sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence as new Veterans Affairs Secretary February 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Shulkin was unanimously confirmed yesterday. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Secretary of Veterans' Affairs-designate David Shulkin testifies during a Senate Veterans' Affairs confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2017. Shulkin is the only cabinet holdover from the Obama administration, in which he serves as undersecretary of health for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He previously worked as chief medical officer of the University of Pennsylvania health system. / AFP / ZACH GIBSON (Photo credit should read ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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In between, he and his wife, whose airfare and a per diem for meals were at taxpayer expense because she was traveling on "approved invitational orders," toured both cities, visiting Christiansborg and Amalienborg palaces and going on a canal tour in Copenhagen, as well as Buckingham and Kensington palaces and a river cruise on the Thames in London.

The trip came less than two weeks after Shulkin signed a memo instructing VA officials to curtail unnecessary travel in order to "generate savings within the" department.

VA press secretary Curt Cashour told the Post in a statement that all of the Shulkins' activities, including Wimbledon, had been "reviewed and approved by ethics counsel."

"These were important trips with our allies to discuss best practices for taking care of veterans," Cashour said. "The secretary has been transparent on his down-time activities that were similar to what he would have done with his family over a weekend in the U.S."

The VA also announced Friday that it would post online the secretary's travel itineraries, including whether he flew on government or private planes, to increase transparency.

Revelations of Shulkins' travel activities come as at least four other senior members of President Donald Trump's administration have faced questions about their travel on the taxpayer dime.

On Thursday night, Politico reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had flown between two Caribbean islands with staff on two chartered jets on a route where commercial flights are readily available, as well as to his home state of Montana. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken at least four military and non-commercial flights costing at least $58,000.

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Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
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Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
Ivanka Trump: First daughter and presidential adviser
Gen. John Kelly: Former Secretary of Homeland Security, current White House chief of staff
Steve Bannon: Former White House chief strategist, no longer with the Trump administration
Jared Kushner: Son-in-law and senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway: Former Trump campaign manager, current counselor to the president
Reince Priebus: Former White House chief of staff, no longer with the Trump administration
Anthony Scaramucci: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House press secretary
Donald Trump Jr.: First son to President Trump
Sean Spicer: Former White House press secretary, soon to be no longer with the Trump administration
Jeff Sessions: U.S. attorney general
Steve Mnuchin: Secretary of Treasury
Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign chairman
Carter Page: Former foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign
Omarosa Manigault: Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison
Melania Trump: Wife to President Trump and first lady of the United States
Jason Miller: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Hope Hicks: White House Director of Strategic Communications
Mike Dubke: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Stephen Miller: Trump senior policy adviser
Corey Lewandowski: Former Trump campaign manager
Eric Trump: Son to President Trump
Rex Tillerson: Secretary of State
Michael Flynn: Former National Security Advisor, no longer with the Trump administration
Sebastian Gorka: Former deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration, no longer in his White House role
Roger Stone: Former Trump campaign adviser, current host of Stone Cold Truth
Betsy DeVos: U.S. Education Secretary
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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin came under fire for using a government plane to fly to Kentucky in August with his wife for a trip that coincided with the total solar eclipse, and for a request – later withdrawn – to use a government plane for his European honeymoon.

But it is Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who has come under the heaviest criticism for travel totalling more than $1 million within the United States and overseas on private charter and military aircraft.

On Thursday, Price promised to fly only commercial and write a check reimburse the government so "taxpayers won't pay a dime for my seat on those planes." Price has confirmed the amount of the check to be $51,887.31.

Trump on Friday reiterated his displeasure with the burgeoning scandal, telling reporters he would make a decision regarding Price's future in the administration Friday night.

"He's a very fine man," Trump said. "I certainly don't like the optics. I'm not happy, I can tell you that. I'm not happy."

(Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report)

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