Three wealthy friends of Donald Trump who were members of his Mar-a-Lago golf resort were authorized by the then president to order Veterans Affairs officials to serve their own interests, according to documents released Monday under a joint agreement. congressional investigation.
Marvel Entertainment president Ike Perlmutter, attorney Marc Sherman, and Palm Beach Dr Bruce Moskowitz were allowed by Trump to interfere in just about anything they wanted in the VA as “advisers” then that they were pursuing their personal interests, according to information from the 19-month investigation. published by the House and Veterans Affairs Oversight Committees. Trump in 2017 announced that they would “straighten out the VA.”
None of the men had experience in the military or government.
In one case, the men discussed a “hugely profitable plan” to monetize the VA patient database, suggesting that Johnson & Johnson, Apple and CVS could benefit from access to VA’s electronic medical records, according to the reports. congressional investigators.
They worked with then secretary David Shulkin to award a consultancy contract to the former head of the Moskowitz nonprofit foundation to explore the idea, according to the report. He said patient data could be “contributed to hundreds of millions of revenues.” We do not yet know where this project is.
The men, “empowered by their connection to Donald Trump, broke the law and sought to exert undue influence on government officials to advance their own personal interests,” said representatives Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Who led the investigation.
They accused the men of violating the Federal Open Government Advisory Committee Act, which requires transparency from advisory groups.
The three have been involved in hundreds of email exchanges. They often gave orders to officials, even though they were inexperienced, unsupervised, and had no official role in the department.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) watchdog group in 2019 obtained over 300 pages of emails implicating the trio at the golf resort who were cavalierly aiming to reshape the operations of the department that provides healthcare to 9 million veterans.
Staff members and officials were often annoyed and frustrated by the triumvirate’s interference, the emails said. A doctor in the department who was asked by a VA official to answer one of the men’s questions called the requests “just plain ridiculous.” They don’t make sense and there’s a complete lack of understanding… I’m just baffled, ”the email said.
The three were particularly interested in a $ 16 billion tech contract for veterans hospitals and were so inefficiently involved in the process that they helped delay it considerably, according to Politico. According to an email obtained by CREW, Moskowitz insisted on being included in “every call” involving VA contracts, according to an email.
Advocacy group VoteVets filed a lawsuit in 2018 to shut down the “Mar-a-Lago Council”. The lawsuit argued that the VA violated the Federal Advisory Board Act by allowing men to exercise “considerable, but hidden influence.”
The case is ongoing. United States. The District of Columbia District Court dismissed the case in 2019, saying the group did not qualify for an advisory board under federal advisory board law. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the ruling in March, saying VoteVets presented “sufficient facts” to pursue the case.
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