Trump’s VA Secretary Is the Fourth Cabinet Member to be Caught in a Travel Expense Scandal
Overshadowed by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s resignation Friday afternoon, Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin is the latest Trump cabinet member to be found mixing personal trips and expenses with government travel. The VA secretary cruised the Thames, took in sight-seeing at Westminster Abbey, and watched a Wimbledon tennis match during a 10-day European trip with his wife, according to an itinerary obtained by The Washington Post.
The VA secretary’s 10-day trip—which also included the department’s undersecretary and her husband, Shulkin’s chief of staff, an aide, and six security people—was approximately half business, half pleasure, the itinerary reportedly details. The government paid for Shulkin’s wife airfare and provided a per diem for her meals because she was traveling on “approved invitational orders,” reports the Post.
The Shulkins’ July trip was revealed as the personal travel and government expenses of other cabinet officials have also come under scrutiny. In his first three months in office, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt reportedly travelled home to Oklahoma at least 10 times, according to records acquired by a watchdog group. In addition, the EPA is building a $25,000 soundproof booth for Pruitt, the first agency head to have an aroud-the-clock security detail.
In August, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife reportedly used a government plane to travel to Lexington, Ky. to watch the solar eclipse, a trip that came to light after Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton boasted on Instagram about traveling with her husband on a government plane. Mnuchin has denied that he took the trip to view the eclipse. He has also said claims about him requesting the use of a government jet during his honeymoon with Linton earlier this year were about national security.
HHS secretary Price’s spending has been the most audacious of the cabinet so far. The former Georgia congressman may have taken more than $1 million in chartered, private jets, according to reporting by the Post. The revelation ultimately led to his resignation on Friday.
As for Shulkin, the VA Secretary is likely hoping Price’s exit helps his own spending to fly under the radar. One of few Obama administration holdovers, Shulkin was most recently the VA’s undersecretary before being promoted by President Trump. Considering his previous boss and the current president’s unfavorable views of how the VA has been run, Shulkin may now be on thin ice—if he wasn’t already.