According to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, the White House has given him broad authority to dismiss anyone in his department who is at odds with his agenda, and Shulkin said he is investigating what he termed "subversion" within the agency.
Shulkin also said that anyone who has defied his authority “won’t be working in my operation.”
Shulkin’s new chief of staff, Peter O’Rourke, is meeting with each staffer suspected of defying Shulkin “individually and as a group to determine, now that there is a clear direction where we are going, where people are going to stand," he said. "Those who crossed the line in the past are going to have to be accountable for those decisions."
Shulkin and the White House on Friday named O’Rourke, who previously led an accountability office at VA, to replace Vivieca Wright Simpson after she retired last week. An IG report accused her of falsifying an email to get the VA to pay for Shulkin’s wife to accompany him on a trip to England and Denmark over the summer.
The IG investigation apparently brought Shulkin's opposition into the light, thinking the secretary might be forced to resign after financial indiscretions were discovered.
But Shulkin repaid the cost of Wimbledon tickets given to him by a friend, one of the issues at play in the IG report, and seems to have satisfied the White House enough to maintain its support.
Though he chose not to divulge names to Politico, Shulkin did characterizing the issue as a "classic power struggle" and said, “I don’t think everybody’s going to remain at the VA.”
Shulkin declined to say how many people were involved in what he described as “subversive events,” but several political appointees are believed to have been pushing for his ouster. Curt Cashour, Shulkin’s ostensible spokesman, has openly defied his orders, going so far as to remove statements Shulkin had posted on the VA’s website in recent days.