'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.

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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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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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