November 26, 2018

Government Accountability Office Agrees to Investigate Trump "Mar-a-Lago Cronies'" Influence at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Government watchdog accepts Warren request to investigate trio with no military or government experience and their involvement in VA decision-making

Text of letter from GAO (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) applauds the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for its decision to investigate whether unqualified, unaccountable private citizens - cronies of President Trump - with no official government role or responsibilities had or continue to have any undue influence over Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decisions.

On August 10, 2018, Senators Warren and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) sent a letter to the GAO in the wake of a ProPublica investigation. The report revealed numerous examples of potential ethics abuses and misuse of government resources for private gain and notably reported that President Trump's "Mar-a-Lago cronies" - Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and Mr. Marc Sherman - "are secretly shaping the Trump administration's veterans policies." 

In the letter, the senators also noted that "these accounts (...) if true, paint a disturbing picture of corruption and cronyism that is not only antithetical to transparent, accountable, and ethical government, but will make it more difficult for the Secretary to lead the VA in a way that allows him to exercise his independent judgment."

In a letter response, on November 19, 2018, the GAO accepted their request to do an investigation. "GAO accepts your request as work that is within the scope of its authority," wrote the GAO. "At the current time we anticipate that staff with the required skills will be available to initiate an engagement in about five months." 

Any undue influence found over the Department of Veteran Affairs calls upon the need for anti-corruption legislation. Both Senator Warren and Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) have introduced bills to make anti-corruption a top priority in the 116th Congress. Senator Warren introduced S. 3357, The Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, and Representative Jayapal introduced its House companion, H.R. 7140. The legislation would require outside, unpaid advisors to the White House - like Messrs. Perlmutter, Moskowitz, and Sherman - to follow the same ethics rules as government employees and apply those rules to all government employees.