US VA chief becomes latest Trump Cabinet member in trouble for high-priced travel

01:55  15 february  2018
01:55  15 february  2018 Source:   Tribune News Service

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Shulkin becomes the latest Trump Cabinet member to run into trouble for improper travel expenses. The secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price , resigned in September after revelations that he had spent at least 0,000 on private charter flights.

VA chief becomes latest Trump Cabinet member in trouble for high - priced travel . Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks during a House Committee on Veterans ' Affairs hearing on Feb. 6. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press).

a man holding a sign: Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin speaks at the National World War I Memorial ceremonial groundbreaking Nov. 9, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and brought his wife along at taxpayer expense on a trip to London. © Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin speaks at the National World War I Memorial ceremonial groundbreaking Nov. 9, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and brought his wife along at taxpayer expense on a trip to London.

WASHINGTON - Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, traveling on what he said was an "essential" trip to London and Copenhagen, improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and brought along his wife at taxpayer expense, according to a scathing new inspector general's report.

The report says Shulkin and some top staff members made a number of false and misleading statements both to justify the $122,334 trip and in defending it afterwards. His chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, doctored an email to convince an agency ethics lawyer to approve a $4,300 flight for Shulkin's wife, the report found.

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  Analysis: More than 40 percent of Trump's first Cabinet-level picks have faced ethical or other controversies Nine out of 22 have faced such questions, and the list is growing quickly.Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt are that latest to have their questionable travel practices probed. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that an inspector general's report determined Shulkin and top aides doctored an email and otherwise misled it about expenses for a controversial 10-day European trip Shulkin took with his wife.

VA chief becomes latest Trump Cabinet member in trouble for high - priced travel . Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks during a House Committee on Veterans ' Affairs hearing on Feb. 6. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press).

Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin is the latest Trump cabinet member found mixing personal trips and expenses with government travel . Trump 's VA Secretary Is the Fourth Cabinet Member to be Caught in a Travel Expense Scandal.

Another aide devoted "many hours" to arranging for tourist activities for Shulkin and his wife, the report found, "time that should have been spent conducting official VA business and not for providing personal travel concierge services."

Shulkin and his lawyers denounced the report as "one-sided" and said investigators bent the evidence "in an effort to manufacture violations where none exist." They said Shulkin spent the "vast majority" of his time on official business.

"Any sightseeing by the secretary was incidental to the substance of the trip," says the response, included in the report.

Shulkin becomes the latest Trump Cabinet member to run into trouble for improper travel expenses. Trump's first secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, resigned in September after revelations that he had spent at least $400,000 on private charter flights.

Watchdog's report faults VA chief over Europe trip expenses

  Watchdog's report faults VA chief over Europe trip expenses An internal watchdog's investigation has found that Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and likely wrongly used taxpayer money to cover his wife's airfare for an 11-day European trip. The report also questions Shulkin's decision to direct agency staff on official time to arrange his personal sightseeing activities during the July trip to England and Denmark.

VA Secretary Becomes Latest Trump Cabinet Secretary Embroiled in a Travel Scandal. The latest Cabinet member to get called on the carpet is David Shulkin, the secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 42F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph.. Tonight. Shulkin isn't the only Cabinet member to have faced questions about travel since Price resigned. Another Trump Official Is In Trouble For Improper Use Of Travel Funds.

Three other members of the Cabinet have run into trouble for taking expensive flights on private or military planes, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who spent $12,000 to charter a flight to his Montana home. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt billed the government for $58,000 in flights, and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin took his wife along to a trip to Fort Knox, where they viewed the solar eclipse.

The report by VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal says Shulkin and his wife spent nine days in Europe, but business meetings only accounted for 3 1/2 days.

The allegation of the falsified email is the most serious in the report. A VA ethics lawyer at first denied a request to have the agency pick up the expenses for Shulkin's wife, Merle Bari, but told Simpson, the chief of staff, that the agency could justify the expense under certain conditions - such as if Shulkin were receiving an award.

Simpson then doctored an email from a staff member to make it read "we're having a special recognition dinner at the U.S. Ambassador's residence," and forwarded it to the ethics lawyer. "Exactly what I needed," the lawyer wrote, and signed off on the ticket.

In fact, Shulkin never got any award during the trip, the report says. Missal referred the doctored email to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, but the department declined.

The report says the Wimbledon tickets were an improper gift from a British businesswoman who was involved with a charity event supported by the VA. Shulkin says the gift was appropriate because they were personal friends and that the woman had no business with the VA.

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