House VA committee sparks investigation into VA ‘shadow rulers’

Matt Saintsing
February 08, 2019 - 3:00 pm

Photo by Photo by Oliver Contreras

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs launched an investigation to determine just how much power three protégé’s of President Donald Trump had over the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The committee detailed in a letter sent to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, Friday, they are seeking documents and messages that could how much sway the three members of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman, had over critical decisions at the agency. 

RELATED: Here’s how the Mar-a-Lago crowd influenced VA

“The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is opening an investigation into this relationship so that Congress, veterans, and the American people can better understand the scope and nature of this relationship between the Department and these individuals,” wrote Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.). 

He also noted that none of the three men have ever served in the military or any other part of the U.S. government, “and are not accountable to veterans and the American people.” 

Perlmutter is the former CEO of Marvel, Bruce Moskowitz is a physician, and Marc Sherman is an attorney. 

Takano is looking for emails, and travel and phone records by Feb. 22. 

The letter comes just days after Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent another letter to Perlmutter and Sherman, asking for assurance they did not finically profit while making decisions over VA policy. 

RELATED: Senator to ‘Mar-A-Lago crowd:’ Did you profit from the VA, or nah?

Last year, ProPublica reported the three men exerted wide-ranging influence at the agency, including offering input into job vacancies and a contract with Cerner Corporation focusing on electronic health records worth $10 billion.

They reportedly reviewed an internal draft of that contract. 

VA spokesperson Curt Cashour said in a statement that the agency "has been transparent on its communications with these three individuals, and has responded to multiple FOIA requests and shared with Congress responses to those requests." That correspondence can be found here

"Although his predecessors may have done things differently, Sec. Wilkie has been clear about how he does business," said Cashour. "No one from outside the administration dictates VA policies or decisions – that’s up to Sec. Wilkie and President Trump. Period."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the trio messaged then-VA Secretary David Shulkin through "private" email accounts, at the direction of Shulkin. "Dear Friends—I have set up a new email address just for our secure communication on issues in the future," an email from Shulkin read, the paper reports. 

There’s no timeline on the investigation, but the letter says it won’t be “closed until the committee is sufficiently satisfied with the responses provided.” 

"Government officials and private individuals who seek to use the Department for personal enrichment, or who make poor decisions that waste taxpayer dollars or negatively affect the delivery of veterans’ healthcare and benefits must held to account," wrote Takano.

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