Latest Update November 15, 2019

Federal court orders VA to meet with Shulkin and move forward to recover private emails.

The Court ordered the VA to talk to Shulkin and report back on whether he’ll provide assurance as to document retention, describe the steps he took to identify federal records; and state whether and why he withheld any records. The government will describe their efforts to talk with Shulkin in a status report they will file on December 13.

Secretary Robert Wilkie has failed to recover and preserve emails his predecessor, David Shulkin, sent from personal accounts, including one set up specifically to conduct government business with the Mar-a-Lago Crowd. Shulkin specifically created a private email account to shield his discussions of VA business with the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd”—three individuals tied to President Donald Trump’s private Florida club who have advised the VA in violation of federal law as the suit alleges. Then-VA-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 the three men communicated with Secretary Shulkin through this private email account.

The Trump Administration can’t ignore the law to hide how deep the Mar-a-Lago crowd’s influence ran at the top levels of the VA. The Federal Records Act requires the preservation of agency records reflecting government business, and failure to do so violates the law.

This news 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.

We and American Oversight sued Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to force him to recover and preserve these public records. In April and May, respectively, Democracy Forward and American Oversight issued letters to Secretary Wilkie putting him on notice of these violations and demanding that he take action to comply with the law. Today’s filing comes after Secretary Wilkie has failed to act.

Along with VoteVets, we are also suing the Trump administration for its unlawful reliance on the Crowd. Learn more about VoteVets v. Department of Veterans Affairs