Former VA head David Shulkin on Sunday refuted the White House version of his abrupt exit last week, declaring “I did not resign.”
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Shulkin declared “I’ve always had a good relationship” with President Donald Trump, but lashed out at unnamed “political appointees” for trying “to undermine our progress.”
“I came to run the Department of Veterans Affairs because I'm committed to veterans and I'm committed to fighting for them and I would not resign because I'm committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end,” he said.
“So you were fired?” pressed host Jake Tapper.
“I did not resign,” Shulkin replied.
Shulkin asserted he “never had any issues” with Trump, and that he was not opposed to offering more private services for vets — but complained bitterly about WH aides who’ve pressed for privatization.
“He's been clear that he wants to see us do better for veterans and that's why I was there,” Shulkin said of Trump. “I do think the way that the political appointees have behaved and some of the ways that they've tried to undermine our progress has made it a difficult environment."
Shulkin told NBC News' "Meet The Press" that his firing-by-tweet was a surprise. “We actually spoke the day that he sent the tweet out, just a few hours before," he said. "We had set up a meeting for the very next day where I was going to meet with him at 11 in the morning. I had no intention of giving up. There would be no reason for me to resign. I made a commitment, I took an oath, and I was here to fight for our veterans.”
In his CNN interview, Shulkin, however, sidestepped an endorsement of Adm. Ronny Jackson, MD, as his successor — and warned that the president’s doctor, if confirmed by the Senate, will need a good team, and lots of time.
"I've said I believe in Dr. Jackson's values,” he said when pressed on whether he would endorse his nomination. “I know that he cares a lot about veterans and I believe that he will work well with the president, but this is a big job,” he added.
“It's going to take a lot of skill to do it and Dr. Jackson is going to need a good team because this is a team effort to make the type of changes that we need to fix this system,” he said, adding: “It's very important that the next VA secretary be given a long lead time to be able to make the type of changes that we all believe is so important for this country.
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