Mr. Trump met with Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin last week to discuss legislation related to veterans’ health care. Trump has been critical of Shulkin and “has been telling associates he doesn’t know what’s happened at the VA, but he doesn’t like what he’s hearing and he may have to fire Shulkin if the situation further deteriorates.”
None of this is really surprising, but what Trump did during the meeting in the Oval Office perhaps, serves as huge insult to Shulkin. Trump just couldn’t resist calling a Fox & Friends co-host to get his opinion. According to Axios:
‘Trump surprised Shulkin by dialing in Fox & Friends host Pete Hegseth on speaker phone to get his opinion of the legislation, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation.’
Hegseth is a veteran and the former CEO of Concerned Veterans For America, and the former executive director of Vets For Freedom. Axios reported:
‘The Hegseth call put Shulkin in an awkward spot, according to those sources. Hegseth competed for Shulkin’s job and favors more aggressive reform for the VA. Trump talks to Hegseth regularly and enjoys watching him on Fox and Friends.’
The Trump Administration says that veterans’ health care is a top priority, and they have been debating various bills. Some Trump allies want to back offering veterans more health care alternatives outside of the agency, while Shulkin is in favor of a more moderate approach. His approach would only outsource treatment in special cases where waiting times are too long or veterans simply live too far away from agency options.
According to Axios:
‘What came next shocked Kelly: After visiting the White House, Shulkin spoke to The New York Times. He declared victory, announced he had the power to can insubordinate political appointees, and said he had the White House’s full support.’
According to a couple of sources, John Kelly was especially infuriated by this interview, especially a paragraph that said:
‘[Shulkin] said in an interview that President Trump and Mr. Kelly supported his making changes at the department, including the removal of any staff members who did not support him.’
‘Kelly found out about the article because the NYT reporters contacted the White House press shop before publishing the story. Kelly called Shulkin to ask him if he had said this to Times. He felt Shulkin was trying to exploit the meeting he had with him.
‘(This isn’t the first time Kelly felt that way. Senior White House officials were infuriated by an interview Shulkin gave Politico late last month, where he effectively said the same thing. The headline blared: “Shulkin says he has White House backing to purge VA.” But the White House gave Shulkin no such authority at the time, and in fact stymied his attempts to fire what he perceived as Trump political appointees who were conspiring against him.)’
Last month, Shulkin gave another interview to POLITICO that also made Kelly angry. In that interview, he basically said the same thing. The headline read:
‘Shulkin says he has White House backing to purge VA.’
Shulkin has been in a heap of trouble with the White House as they claimed to have agreed to work with Shulkin on fixing his staff problems. According to Axios:
‘But both times they talked, he went directly to the media and declared victory. In the view of senior officials, there’s a difference between discretely and professionally handling staffing issues and publicly embarrassing and firing supporters of the president. Kelly agreed to help Shulkin with the former, and Shulkin keeps trying to do the latter.’
Regardless of what the issues may be, the Trump Administration is obviously in a state of peril when the president puts more faith in a Fox News host than his own Veterans Affairs secretary. Therefore, Fox News is running the country.
Here’s what Twitter thinks about the president’s calls to the Fox News host:
Featured image by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images