Sulkin' Shulkin goes on media blitz days after dismissal

Matt Saintsing
March 30, 2018 - 4:57 pm

Photo by Olivier Douliery

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President Trump’s decision to replace outgoing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, with White House physician Admiral Ronny Jackson, has riled groups and lawmakers that work closely with the VA, and even Shulkin, who once had an armed guard outside his office, is now on a far reaching press tour.

Shulkin wasted no time embarking on a scathing press tour just one day after his firing, beginning Wednesday, with a  New York Times op-ed where he blames his forced removal on Trump administration officials who seek to privatize the VA.

He went on to conduct an interview with NPR and rounded out several cable news appearances late Thursday.

His main thrust is that his opposition to dismantle the agency ultimately cost him his job. In every media appearance he conducted, he blamed his firing on political appointees within the Trump administration who are pushing for more private sector care.. 

Trump chose Jackson, at least in part, because “the status quo was not working,” White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One, Thursday.

Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA

“The president has full confidence in Adm. Jackson," said Walters, adding Trump considered other individuals “but continuously went back to Dr. Jackson to fulfill this role as VA secretary and ultimately decided that his healthcare experience, his distinguished career in the medical profession was something that would be beneficial at the VA." 

Speaking to Fox News host Bret Baier Thursday evening, about 24 hours after he was let go, Shulkin agreed with Trump that the agency wasn’t moving as fast as it should to provide care to veterans.

“He wasn’t happy with the pace and you know, I agree with the president,” said Shulkin. “This is (an) organization that needs to change, it needs to do better at this job and we all want to do it fast we and better because it’s so important to the country.”

Still, the news of his firing came as a surprise to Shulkin who told MSNBC host Chris Hayes in one of several media appearances Thursday, he did not know he was about to be fired when he had a phone conversation with Trump Wednesday, merely hours before news broke.

“We spoke about the progress that I was making, what I needed to do from a policy perspective to make sure that we're fixing the issues in VA,” Shulkin said.

Shulkin, Jackson’s predecessor, had become the VA Secretary with much more experience, including within the agency itself, but only managed to make it a year before he was fired.

Several veterans organizations have expressed concern and a little confusion, over Trump’s selection of Jackson, an active-duty Navy doctor, to lead the second-largest federal agency. One that employs more than 300,000 people and has a $200 billion budget.

Trump’s decision to nominate Jackson has even drawn harsh criticism from a few former top government officials including John Brennan, who served as CIA director during the Obama administration. On Thursday, he slammed Trump saying the decision “was terribly misguided.”

“I personally know and greatly respect Ronny Jackson…as a terrific doctor and Navy officer. However, he has neither the experience nor the credentials to run the very large and complex VA," Brennan wrote on Twitter.

“This is a terribly misguided nomination that will hurt both a good man and our veterans.”