Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin said Wednesday that he is investigating President Donald Trump-appointed members of his staff who he believes are “trying to undermine the department from within.”
Shulkin told the New York Times in an interview published Thursday that he spoke directly to White House chief of staff John Kelly about the issue and is investigating several political appointees in his department for misconduct and potential removal.
“If there are people here who don’t want the V.A. to succeed, I want them out,” he said.
Officials in Shulkin’s department did discuss strategies to replace him last year, according to the report. In an email obtained by the New York Times, White House senior adviser on veterans affairs Jake Leinenkugel told a Trump appointee within the V.A. that he was unhappy with Shulkin and was looking for “solutions” to replace him and other department leadership.
Shulkin’s announcement that he is investigating his staff members comes as he faces criticism for misleading ethics officials about a trip he took to Europe last summer.
An investigation by the Inspector General’s office found that Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored mail to make it appear as though he was receiving an award from the Danish government so that his wife could receive government funding for her $4,312 plane ticket.
Shulkin called the investigation biased, but has since apologized and repaid the government for his wife’s airfare.
Read the full report from The New York Times here.