May 18, 2018

In 'surprise' announcement, Trump says he'll nominate Robert Wilkie for VA secretary

Daily Briefing

    President Trump in a surprise announcement on Friday said he will nominate acting Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to become the department's permanent leader, CBS News reports.

    Background

    The Trump administration has been searching for a candidate to replace former VA Secretary David Shulkin. Trump in a series of tweets posted in March announced that he would nominate Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, who at the time was serving as the White House's top physician, to replace Shulkin. Trump also announced that Wilkie, who serves as the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, would become acting VA secretary until a permanent replacement for Shulkin is confirmed.

    Jackson ultimately withdrew his nomination for VA secretary after allegations surfaced that the White House Medical Office under Jackson was a hostile work environment, as well as that Jackson permitted the overprescribing of drugs, consumed alcohol while working, and crashed a government vehicle while intoxicated. Jackson has denied the allegations.

    Following Jackson's withdrawal, Trump said there were "some exceptional people" interested in the VA secretary role, and was rumored to be considering Ascension President and CEO Anthony Tersigni; former Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove; former Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who had chaired the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs; Wilkie; and others for the post.

    Trump says he intends to nominate Wilkie for VA secretary

    During a summit on prison reform Friday, Trump announced that he intends to nominate Wilkie to become VA's permanent secretary, saying Wilkie "has done an incredible job" as acting VA secretary.

    According to CBS News, the announcement was a "surprise"—and Trump indicated Wilkie, himself, was not expecting the announcement. "He doesn't know this yet," Trump said, adding, "I'm sorry that I ruined the surprise" (Watson, CBS News, 5/18; Kamisar, The Hill, 5/18).

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