Donald Trump finally had enough of Rex Tillerson, but has he also had enough of David Shulkin? His VA Secretary has been the target of one Inspector General report accusing him of misuse of public funds and another that noted his inaction as the main Washington DC care center fell apart. Shulkin wants to fire other Trump appointees underneath him and has posted an armed guard at his door to deny them access.
Multiple media outlets report that Trump may make a change soon, and might do so by shifting another Cabinet official into Shulkin’s place:
President Trump is souring on his embattled Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin, and telling aides he might replace him as part of a broader shake-up of his Cabinet, according to three advisers to the president. …
Senior White House officials said Shulkin could be forced out within days.
The president is considering Energy Secretary Rick Perry, an Air Force veteran, to replace Shulkin, as the New York Times first reported. Trump invited Perry to the White House for lunch on Monday but did not formally offer him the job.
The Washington Post report leaves some ambiguity to the discussion with Perry. The Associated Press reported more definitively yesterday that Trump broached the prospect of a shift to Perry on Monday:
Trump raised the idea with Perry on Monday but did not offer the job to him, according to one White House official. Trump has been angry with Shulkin, the official said, but is known to float staffing changes without always following through.
The Post also reports that a third IG report might be on its way, this time concerning Shulkin’s use of VA security resources:
Shulkin’s security detail is also under investigation by VA Inspector General Michael Missal, who is expected to release a report within weeks on alleged abuses by some of its members.
Shulkin’s “one-memoed hacker” theory isn’t likely to cover those issues, and the White House has already gotten tired of hearing Shulkin’s excuses. Axios reported on Monday that Shulkin had turned into a “major problem” for Trump, mainly because Shulkin tried outspinning John Kelly with the New York Times.
Trump might have already come to that conclusion, however; he made a point of calling Shulkin critic and rival Pete Hegseth in the middle of the meeting in what seems to have been a deliberate attempt to humiliate Shulkin. Anyone else would have understood that as a vote of no confidence and resigned, but Shulkin instead told the Gray Lady that Trump had given him carte blanche to clean house. Trump will have to fire Shulkin to get rid of him, and that day appears to be coming soon.
Perry would be a good fit at the VA, perhaps even better than in his current assignment at Energy. He’s a veteran and has a long track record of executive achievement as a four-term governor of Texas, and has more instincts for disruption and reform than Shulkin. Hegseth would bring a more radical approach to reform, but he would have a tough time winning confirmation for that very reason. Perry should get a relatively easy ride on confirmation if Shulkin gets dumped, in part because he’s already been confirmed once, and in part because the Senate might want to see someone else at Energy. At the very least, Perry knows how to lead without sticking guards in front of the door in fear of his subordinates.