President Donald Trump doesn't have the right people advising him, and that's hindering his presidency, fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said in an interview published Saturday.
"I think that he’s not being well served by all the people around him," Shukin told USA Today. "As big of an organization as he needs to run, you need to have the right people around you with the right team, and, you know, we see with all the turnover and different things going on that are happening in the White House, that he’s still trying to figure that out."
On Wednesday, Trump announced on Twitter that he was replacing Shulkin with U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician. Jackson had served for former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well at Trump.
Shulkin said Thursday that he had spoken with Trump several hours earlier, before the tweet, but the president gave no indication that he was about to fire him. Instead, he said he learned about his fate from Chief of Staff John Kelly, before Trump posted his tweet about Jackson.
The former VA director told USA Today that he believes Trump has the right to surround himself with people he trusts, "but I think many of the things that we’re seeing and that we’re struggling with have to do with building that team and the staff around him."
Shulkin originally came onboard at the VA in 2015 under Obama, and until he was fired was the only holdover remaining from the previous administration. After Trump fired him, he has spoken out in several television interviews and in an New York Times opinion piece about the action, and to warn against calls to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Trump has often called for moving the VA into the private sector, but Shulkin told USA Today that the plan wasn't part of the discussions that led up to his being named last January.
"We talked about the essential need to fix the VA — that he felt passionately that veterans weren’t getting the type of services and care that they needed, and I agreed with him," he said.
Shulkin had served as undersecretary for health since 2015, and he said he does agree that improvements with the VA's system were not happening quickly enough.
"I’m impatient, he’s impatient, the country’s impatient," said Shulkin. However the VA is too large and its issues are too complex for a quick fix.
"We all want to do this faster and better," he said. "You can’t quickly turn on a dime and see the type of progress that people want in the timeframe that you want always."
Shulkin's firing came on the heels of a month in which Trump also released Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced ex-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with former Ambassador John Bolton.
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