Trump White House schemes to replace popular, qualified VA secretary with a 'political candidate'

Improving the efficiency of the Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the few points on which both Democrats and Republicans agree. No one wants to see long waits or poor service for veterans. And Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin was one of those rare things in the Trump cabinet—someone who appears to be well-qualified for his role and who was approved by a broad bipartisan vote.

Born on an Army base with his father an Army doctor, Shulkin is a Yale grad with a background in healthcare management and a previous role as the president of Beth Israel Medical Center. His choice to head the VA received across the board support from inside and outside the organization, and his actions over the last year have made Shulkin the most popular member of Trump’s team on both sides of the aisle.

“What motivates me and what motivates Dr. Shulkin is the same, to provide the best care to veterans,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “I don’t know whether he’s a Republican or Democrat, and I could care less.”

With all that going for him, it shouldn’t be surprising that Trump’s White House is now working to not just get rid of Shulkin, but find a way to harass and embarrass him until he’s forced to quit.

An email sent in December by Jake Leinenkugel, the White House senior adviser on veterans affairs, expressed frustration with Dr. Shulkin and listed ways to topple the leadership of his department once key legislation was passed. … Mr. Leinenkugel, who has an office in the department, proposed “solutions” in the email, including using a continuing investigation of the secretary’s travel to remove Dr. Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson; replacing the deputy secretary, Thomas G. Bowman, with Mr. Leinenkugel; and replacing Dr. Shulkin with a “strong political candidate.”

That last line from the New York Times’ article is the critical one. Shulkin has to go, not for anything he’s done as head of the VA, but because he’s refusing to play politics with the agency.