'This is Washington. I'm a big boy': Recently ousted VA secretary says his removal was fueled by politics

  • Former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin is talking about his recent ouster from the Trump administration.

  • Shulkin said that his removal on Wednesday was politically motivated.

  • Despite losing his job, he offered complimentary words for his expected replacement, Dr. Ronny Johnson, who served as a White House doctor before President Donald Trump nominated him for the VA secretary post.

The former Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin, talked about his ouster from the Trump administration, and sought to defend himself from reports that criticized his troubled tenure at the second largest federal agency in the US.

"Washington is a town that throws up all sorts of allegations," Shulkin said to Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Thursday.

Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration and the only one of Trump's Cabinet nominees who was unanimously confirmed, saw his fortunes turn after a critical inspector-general report.

The report concluded that he improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match during a $122,000 government-funded trip with his wife. The report also found that Shulkin's chief of staff altered official emails to justify funding for his wife's portion of the trip.

"We believe that public officials must be held to a higher standard, and whether intentional or not, misusing taxpayer dollars is unacceptable," a group of bipartisan senators wrote in a letter.

Shulkin later said he regretting having "relied upon my staff to do this," and reimbursed the government.

"I've addressed that everything that I did on this European trip was preapproved ... was consistent with past policies at VA," Shulkin said to Baier. "But when the inspector general had concerns about it, I wrote a check and I paid back every penny of a single coach air fare."

Shulkin said he believes his ouster was politically motivated.

"This was used in a political way to try to remove me," Shulkin continued. "This is Washington. I'm a big boy, I understand that."

"I've said that it shouldn't be this hard to serve your country. And I don't think it should be, but thankfully, there are many people that are still trying to fix our systems like the VA."

Trump announced on Twitter that he intended to nominate White House physician Adm. Ronny Jackson as Shulkin's replacement. Trump also said that Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, would serve in the interim.

Shulkin said he wishes the best for Jackson: "I will help Dr. Jackson in any way that he needs help because it's very important that we succeed at this mission."

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