Washington, D.C. — Today, Democracy Forward, with the support of VoteVets, sued the Trump Administration for unlawfully withholding records detailing the full extent of the influence members of the President’s private golf club have in shaping decisions that affect millions of America’s veterans. The suit follows the Administration’s refusal to disclose records requested by Congress.
Earlier reporting based on records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealed that President Trump’s ‘Mar-a-Lago Council’—a group composed of Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach concierge doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and Marc Sherman, a private lawyer—has wielded unprecedented influence over senior officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and has regularly weighed in on decisions affecting millions of America’s veterans, such as the push to privatize veterans’ health services. In an effort to learn more about the conduct of the Mar-a-Lago Council, and the extent of their influence over veterans policy, Democracy Forward requested records from the VA. The VA violated federal law in failing to disclose the requested records.
Today’s filing comes after an earlier case brought by VoteVets, which directly challenges President Trump’s ‘Mar-a-Lago Council’ for violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a federal law that regulates the ability of private interests to shape federal policy.
“The Administration’s decision to outsource decision-making on issues that affect veterans’ lives is deeply troubling, especially when this authority is secretly shifted to patrons of the President’s resort, “said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. First, the Trump Administration unlawfully ceded VA policy making to a shadow council of the President’s golf buddies, and now it is unlawfully holding back records detailing the full extent of the Mar-a-Lago Council’s influence. This leaves open a question that has consistently plagued this Administration: What exactly are President Trump and his cronies trying to hide?”
“What are they trying to hide,” asked Will Fischer, Director of Government Relations for VoteVets. “If they did nothing wrong, they wouldn’t hide behind this excuse to withhold documents from Congress, illegally. This administration continually plays these games with the VA, and that hurts all veterans. It’s time for them to come clean. If they refuse, we’ll force them. Veterans deserve nothing less.”
Several Members of Congress have also requested communications between VA officials and President Trump’s ‘Mar-a-Lago Council’ as well as travel records of VA officials to and from Mar-a-Lago, including House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Cummings who has requested the Majority subpoena records, House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Walz, and Sens. Duckworth and Hassan, who have requested an investigation by the VA Office of the Inspector General. The Administration has stonewalled the request for records, most recently telling Ranking Member Walz of its refusal to cooperate in the investigation.
The suit was filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
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.
VoteVets.org continues to focus on matters including, but not limited to, foreign policy, energy security, veterans’ unemployment, and opening military service to life-long Americans born to undocumented immigrants, as well as continued investment in care for veterans. More often than not, Veterans have a stake in the top issues of the day, and VoteVets.org is committed to getting their voices heard on these issues. For that reason, VoteVets.org has, and will continue to, work with all progressive allies representing labor, immigration, gay and lesbian rights, and environmentalists, when their issues coincide with the needs of troops and veterans.
December 7, 2018