situation reeks of corruption and cronyism,” said the top
Democrat on the House veterans committee.
– Democratic lawmakers said they will investigate how three outsiders
have been shaping policy and personnel at the Department of Veterans
Affairs. A ProPublica investigation
Tuesday revealed the vast influence of the trio, who often meet at
President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sent
to the agency’s new secretary demanding that the VA hand over
all records of contacts between agency officials and the three men,
who are sometimes referred to as the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd.”
situation reeks of corruption and cronyism,” Walz
(D-Minn.) said in a statement. “If these revelations prove
true, and VA is being secretly run from the shadows of Mar-a-Lago by
individuals with no accountability to taxpayers and who have never
served in the United States military or government, then that would
amount to an unprecedented, disturbing, and profoundly unacceptable
betrayal of our nation’s veterans.”
troika is led by
Ike Perlmutter, the chairman of Marvel Entertainment who has long
known Trump. Another is Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor who
caters to the ultra-wealthy. The third is Marc Sherman, a lawyer who
serves as an expert witness in white collar trials. While they lack
relevant experience to veterans’ health care, what they do have
is the president’s ear.
based on interviews with former officials and hundreds of documents
obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that VA
officials treated their directives as orders. Officials who didn’t
get along with the Mar-a-Lago Crowd were sidelined or removed.
the Senate veterans committee, Jon Tester of Montana, also chimed in
saying the VA should be listening to veterans, not politics
insiders. “Any influence and supervision of
taxpayer-funded VA personnel and programs by unelected, unaccountable
and politically-motivated advisors is deeply concerning,”
Tester said in a statement.
the committee called for a hearing. “It is just astounding
to me that this group of totally
and behind-the-scenes people can exert this kind
said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), in an interview on CNN.
at a sensitive time at the VA, where Robert Wilkie is serving his
first full week as the new secretary. Wilkie has already run into
resistance from the Mar-a-Lago Crowd’s allies in the agency,
according to people familiar with the situation.
voiced their outrage on Twitter.
White House said
the trio do not exercise any direct authority over the VA. In a
statement, Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman said their advice was
Wilkie requesting documents, Rep. Walz raised particular concern
about the instances in ProPublica’s story where the Mar-a-Lago
Crowd “may have used their influence for personal gain.”
about former secretary David Shulkin’s appearance at the New
York Stock Exchange with Perlmutter’s company, Marvel, and
about Moskowitz’s involving his son in an effort to get the VA
and Apple to build an app.
the largest veterans service organization, also responded to the
article by questioning the Mar-a-Lago Crowd’s qualifications to
advice Trump on veterans policies.
about to tell President Trump who he can or cannot take advice from,
but we hope that he carefully considers the qualifications and
motivations of those offering that advice when it comes to the
treatment and wellbeing of America’s veterans,” National
Commander Denise Rohan said in a statement
Arnsdorf is a reporter at ProPublica, covering national politics.
report originally ran at ProPublica and is reprinted here with
permission. ProPublica is a non-profit news platform that produces
investigative journalism in the public interest.
was a recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for public service, the
2016 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting, the 2011 Pulitzer
Prize for national reporting and a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for
presented in the above report is the product of ProPublica's
reporting and does not necessarily represent the views of the staff
or management of the Sky Valley Chronicle.