Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general has found.Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most-senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government, then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael J. Missal said in a report released Wednesday. VA paid more than $4,300 for her airfare.The account of how the government paid travel expenses for the secretary’s wife is one finding in an unsparing investigation that concluded that Shulkin and his staff misled agency ethics officials and the public about key details of the trip. Shulkin also improperly accepted a gift of sought-after tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match, the investigation found, and directed an aide coordinating the trip to act as what the report called a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife.
It should be said that Shulkin was originally appointed by Barack Obama and Trump decided to keep him on. But it sure looks like they’ve assimilated the Trump ethos over at the VA.
* Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and Matt Zapotosky report that Trump has put White House Counsel Don McGahn in a very precarious position in many ways, including with this episode:
President Trump had a request for his lawyer: Call a senior Justice Department official and get him to persuade the FBI director to announce that Trump was not personally under investigation in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.White House counsel Donald McGahn made the call in April to acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente but failed to convince him that FBI Director James B. Comey should make the statement, according to several people familiar with the episode. The refusal further frustrated a president who had already twice appealed directly to Comey, who told him he should have McGahn call instead.
Soon after that, the frustrated president then fired Comey.
* Micah Lee and Cora Currier got their hands on 2016 chat messages in which Julian Assange says “We believe it would be much better for GOP to win.” Wikileaks, scourge of the powerful!
* Mark Seibel reports that Rep. Adam Schiff says the FBI is objecting to every non-public piece of information in the Democratic rebuttal memo to the Nunes memo. That will, of course, complicate the prospects for its release.
* Christopher Ingraham tallies up the number of states in which Republicans control the redistricting process, which will complicate efforts to make it more fair. (Hint: it’s a lot.)
* And Stormy Daniels believes that when Trump’s lawyer admitted he “facilitated” a $130,000 payment to her, it negated the non-disclosure agreement she signed, so now she’s ready to tell the truth about her affair with the president.