President Trump is preparing to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, following reports of spending abuses and a revolt at the VA, at least among a handful of political appointees, three administration officials told The Associated Press on Sunday. One official put the odds that Shulkin would be ousted in the next day or so at "50-50."
In conversations from Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, Trump "did say that he's expecting to make one or two major changes," Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, a Trump confidant, told ABC's This Week. "Now, other White House sources, not the president, tell me that Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is likely to depart the Cabinet very soon." Trump reportedly told associates at Mar-a-Lago that he plans to keep on Chief of Staff John Kelly and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, both subject of rumored departures.
The White House is looking at a half-dozen people to replace Shulkin, AP reports, ranging from conservative Fox & Friends contributor Pete Hegseth to former Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, and Lockheed Martin senior vice president and former VA deputy secretary Leo Mackey Jr. The VA, with 370,000 employees, is the second-largest federal department, after Homeland Security, and it profiles medical care and other benefits to about 9 million veterans.
Rumors about Shulkin's ouster have been spreading since February, but "right now, Trump is happy to watch Shulkin twist in the wind for a while," says Jonathan Swan at Axios. "A prolonged period of job insecurity and public humiliation is a uniquely Trumpian form of payback," in Shulkin's case for "freelancing to The New York Times," mishandling of internal disputes, and other perceived errors.