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VA Secretary David Shulkin's top press aides apparently actively lobbied for his ouster

A top aide to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin recently lobbied to have Shulkin and his top deputy fired, USA Today and The Washington Post report, citing multiple people familiar with the effort. The campaign, by VA assistant secretary for public affairs John Ullyot and Press Secretary Curt Cashour, was "unsuccessful — but audacious," USA Today notes, because "Ullyot is the secretary's highest ranking aide tasked with publicly defending him and the agency." Shulkin said Monday he has Trump's support and alleged that some of his staff is trying to undermine him.

During a phone call on Feb. 15, a day after a VA inspector general report blasted Shulkin for improper use of public funds on a European trip, Ullyot and Cashour reportedly tried to convince a senior aide on the House Veterans Affairs Committee to have House Republicans call President Trump to demand Shulkin's ouster. "Ullyot expressed confidence on the call that President Trump would fire Shulkin by the following Tuesday," USA Today reports, citing two government sources, "but he told the aide it would be helpful if lawmakers on the committee called for his resignation ... and he said such pressure would make the firing a virtual certainty." House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has made it clear he has confidence in Shulkin.

Ullyot, who worked on Trump's campaign and presidential transition, and Cashour — both political appointees — said they did call House committee staff director Jonathan Towers but denied trying to oust Shulkin, calling the allegation "ridiculous." But "a power struggle between a group of political appointees and Shulkin and his longtime aides at the agency has divided the top ranks of the VA for months," USA Today says, and The Washington Post says the "fraught relationship" between Ullyot and Shulkin "has broken down" amid the European junket scandal.