The White House’s talking points on the departure of David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs secretary shifted slightly Monday morning, with Mercedes Schlapp, the director of strategic communications, telling Fox News that Shulkin was given the “opportunity to resign.”
Over the weekend, as Shulkin insisted he was fired from the Trump administration, the White House insisted that he resigned. Yet pressed on his ouster Monday morning, Schlapp did not say that Shulkin resigned, just that he was asked to.
“Gen. Kelly called Shulkin and gave him the opportunity to resign,” she said on “Fox and Friends” when asked whether Shulkin resigned. “Obviously the key here is that the President has made a decision. He wanted a change in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He felt it was time. He wanted more results coming out of that particular department, which as we know is incredibly bureaucratic. And so that is why he moved to make this change.”
Pressed again on whether Shulkin resigned, Schlapp said, “Gen. Kelly offered him the opportunity to resign. At this point the President said it was time to move on in terms of Veterans Affairs. He thanked Secretary Shulkin for his service.”
The distinction between a firing and a resignation could be important. If an official resigns, the White House has the power appoint an interim official, but the rules are less clear on what the White House can do if someone is fired.