Today we demanded that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie comply with the Federal Records Act by recovering and preserving emails discussing VA matters that former Secretary David Shulkin sent from a personal account created to communicate with the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd.”
Reporting has revealed that Secretary Shulkin told members of the Mar-a-Lago Crowd that he had “set up a new email address just for our secure communications on issues in the future,” and that the Crowd–Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, concierge doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and consultant Marc Sherman–communicated with Secretary Shulkin through this private email account. This reporting builds on existing concerns regarding the Mar-a-Lago Crowd’s improper influence at the VA, which has included advising VA officials on, among other things, Department personnel and staffing issues; the Department’s multi-billion dollar, no-bid health records digitization contract with the Cerner Corporation; and the privatization of certain essential health services currently provided to veterans directly by the VA.
Federal Law Requires that the Department of Veterans Affairs Preserve Agency Records
Failure to preserve Secretary Shulkin’s emails would violate the Federal Records Act. Today’s request for compliance demands the VA fulfill its FRA obligations to:
- Notify the Archivist of the United States of any and all instances where federal records created or received by Secretary Shulkin were removed from Departmental custody.
- Retrieve from Secretary Shulkin’s custody any and all federal records stored on private accounts and ensure their proper preservation under the FRA, including, as necessary, by referring the potential unlawful alienation of federal records by Secretary Shulkin to the Attorney General for the purpose of initiating an enforcement action.
- Review the Department’s records management policy to identify shortcomings of their existing preservation policy.
We requested that the Department confirm it has completed these steps within sixty days of receiving the letter. Should Secretary Wilkie fail to do so, we ask that the Archivist of the United States refer the matter to the Attorney General for initiation of an enforcement action.
Democracy Forward, along with VoteVets, is also suing the Trump administration for its unlawful reliance on the Crowd to advise the VA on key initiatives, outside of public view, that affect veterans’ lives.