Donald Trump Suggests Violating Federal Law By Having Robert Wilkie Serve As Interim VA Secretary, While Being Nominated for Job

WASHINGTON, DC – VoteVets, the largest progressive group of veterans in America, and Democracy Forward today decry the lack of thought and consideration for America’s veterans and the rule of law that Donald Trump put into nominating Robert Wilkie to be VA Secretary, given that Wilkie cannot legally serve as interim secretary, and be the nominee to be secretary, at the same time. Trump made the announcement, reportedly to the surprise of Wilkie, at an event on prison reform, today.

Backing up their assertion that Wilkie could no longer serve as acting Secretary if nominated, the groups cite 5 U.S.C. 3345(b)(1), which reads:

(1)Notwithstanding subsection (a)(1), a person may not serve as an acting officer for an office under this section, if—

(A)during the 365-day period preceding the date of the death, resignation, or beginning of inability to serve, such person—
(i) did not serve in the position of first assistant to the office of such officer; or
(ii) served in the position of first assistant to the office of such officer for less than 90 days; and

(B) the President submits a nomination of such person to the Senate for appointment to such office.

“It is abundantly clear that Robert Wilkie cannot be nominated to be VA Secretary, while serving as Acting Secretary,” said Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations of VoteVets. “Once again, this president just made a spur-of-the-moment decision on veterans care, without any consideration, without any thought, and clearly without the usual process, which would have caught this issue with the law.”

“So, our question is this: At what point will our lives actually matter to this guy,” Fischer asked. “This is a person who nominated someone to run the VA, in Ronny Jackson, who isn’t even allowed to be his personal physician anymore, because of all the red flags. Now, he’s nominating someone who legally cannot continue to serve as acting Secretary. The absolute lack of thought Donald Trump puts into these life and death decisions for veterans is absolutely sickening and infuriating. We veterans deserve much, much better.”

“It looks like, once again, President Trump decided not to talk to his lawyers before making a major announcement,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “President Trump’s off-the-cuff approach demonstrates how little regard he and his administration have for the interests of America’s veterans, and only creates additional uncertainty about whether and how veterans will continue to receive the benefits they’ve earned.”

Democracy Forward, a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, previously filed suit on behalf of veterans, against the administration, over Wilkie’s designation to be Acting Secretary, saying it did not comply with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The suit was filed with support from VoteVets. That filing can be read here:

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Founded in 2006, and backed by over 500,000 supporters, the mission of VoteVets.org is to use public issue campaigns and direct outreach to lawmakers to ensure that troops abroad have what they need to complete their missions, and receive the care they deserve when they get home. VoteVets.org also recognizes veterans as a vital part of the fabric of our country and will work to protect veterans’ interests in their day-to-day lives. VoteVets.org is committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world – with force when necessary – to protect America. While non-partisan, the group is the largest progressive organization of veterans in America.

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

Press Contact:
Charisma Troiano
(202) 701-1781
ctroiano@democracyforward.org

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