Washington, DC– Late Friday, the Trump Administration attempted to dismiss a case challenging its unlawful reliance on a troika of Mar-a-Lago golf club members who are illegally influencing policy decisions that affect millions of America’s veterans. Astonishingly, the Administration argued that the Mar-a-Lago Council is not subject to federal transparency laws because its members–which include a Marvel Entertainment CEO, a Palm Beach concierge doctor, and a private lawyer–exert too much influence over federal veterans policy.
“We sued to stop the Trump Administration from relying on a troika of Mar-a-Lago members to shape veterans policy because that’s not how government is supposed to work, and our veterans deserve better.” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “Now, in an attempt to shut down our lawsuit, the Trump Administration is actually arguing that this shadow Mar-a-Lago Council is not subject to federal transparency laws because they have exerted too much influence over veterans policy.”
“Following two weeks of continued disrespect toward our veterans, President Trump’s recent effort to dismiss our case is the latest slap in the face to the men and women who have sacrificed to protect our country,” said Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations for VoteVets. “America’s veterans deserve a Commander-in-Chief who cares enough about our well-being not to outsource decisions about our health care to dues paying members of his golf club.”
The government’s motion to dismiss is the latest example of President Trump’s and his Administration’s disrespect and disregard for America’s veterans:
On Veteran’s Day, President Trump refused to visit Arlington Cemetery or any memorial honoring the fallen;
President Trump blamed the rain for his absence from France’s service honoring our WWI heroes;
President Trump attacked four-star retired Navy SEAL Adm. William H. McRaven–who led the 2011 Osama Bin Laden takedown–for not killing the Sept. 11th mastermind “sooner”;
New reports show the Trump Administration is failing thousands of veterans who are waiting anxiously for long overdue GI Bill benefits–a calamity owing, in part, to President Trump’s failure to install competent leadership within the VA’s Office of Information and Technology; and
President Trump has still not visited our troops in combat.
The case, brought by Democracy Forward on behalf of VoteVets, asserts the Mar-a-Lago Council is violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act–a transparency law regulating the ability of private interests to shape federal policy. The sweeping influence the Mar-a-Lago Council enjoys within the VA extends to such critical aspects of veterans policy as the makeup of the Department’s leadership and the privatization of VA healthcare services. Indeed, the Council’s stature is such that both of President Trump’s appointed VA Secretaries–first, David Shulkin, and later, Robert Wilkie–felt compelled to fly to Florida to meet the Council at the Mar-a-Lago Club to solicit its views on a range of topics.
In September 2018, Sec. Wilkie testified before Congress that he has not been in contact with Council members since he flew to Mar-a-Lago for an in-person meeting with the trio during his first week in office. The Administration has, however, continuously stonewalled efforts by several Congressional offices to obtain records that bear on the Council’s influence and access within the VA, including with respect to requests sent by House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Walz and House Oversight Ranking Member Cummings. Moreover, a recently released letter reveals that the VA Office of the Inspector General has declined to open an investigation into the Mar-a-Lago Council, despite requests by Sens. Duckworth and Hassan. The government’s motion to dismiss continues the Administration’s pattern of shielding the Mar-a-Lago Council from scrutiny.
VoteVets’s response to the Trump Administration’s motion to dismiss will be filed in the coming weeks.
December 7, 2018