VA Secretary Shulkin Going 'Very Soon,' Kelly Staying: Trump Insider

VA Secretary David Shulkin arrives on Capitol Hill to testify before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on Feb. 15. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
VA Secretary David Shulkin arrives on Capitol Hill to testify before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on Feb. 15. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin will be leaving his post in the near future, but the job of the White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, appears to be safe for now, a confidante of President Donald Trump said Sunday.

Shulkin, embroiled in a scandal over his travel expenses and openly feuding with White House political appointees, "is likely to depart the Cabinet very soon," said Christopher Ruddy, a personal friend of Trump who has often been used by the administration to float policy and personnel proposals.

As for Kelly, who has been rumored to be at odds with Trump over his off-the-cuff decisions and unpredictability, Ruddy said "the president is happy with the job he is doing. I believe he will be staying."

Speaking on ABC-TV's "This Week" program, Ruddy, an ABC contributor and CEO of Newsmax Media, a conservative site, said he had spoken on Saturday about the possible personnel moves with Trump. The president spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Trump was "perplexed" at media reports of a White House in "chaos" over the recent firings and departures of top officials, and "he told me that he thinks the White House is operating as a smooth machine, in his words," Ruddy said.

The latest departure was that of Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the White House national security adviser. Trump last Thursday announced that McMaster was being replaced by John Bolton, the former United Nations ambassador and Fox News contributor.

Earlier this month, Trump announced on Twitter that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Moving forward, Trump had in mind "one or two major changes to his government very soon and that's going to be it," Ruddy said.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, rumored to be on the way out over his office expenses, will be among those who will be staying, Ruddy said.

"I'm told that the president is happy with the job he's doing," he said.

Shulkin, the only holdover from the Obama administration in Trump's Cabinet, had appeared to be a Trump favorite, but his status was put in question last month with a report from the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs charging that he wrongly billed the government for the $4,132 airfare of his wife on a trip to London and Denmark last summer.

Since then, Shulkin has charged that he has been the target of "subversion" by political appointees in the White House and within the VA over the expansion of the veterans choice program, which allows vets to opt for private health care.

Continued funding of the choice program and the expansion of the VA's caregiver program, providing stipends to family members who care for severely disabled vets, were left out of the $1.3 trillion omnibus government spending package Trump signed last week after threatening a veto.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

 

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