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Thu Aug 22, 2019, 04:28 PM

'Just Ridiculous': Trump's Mar-a-Lago Cronies Meddled in Veterans Affairs as Employees Seethed [View all]

August 22, 2019 12:57PM ET
‘Just Ridiculous’: Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Cronies Meddled in Veterans Affairs as Employees Seethed
Internal emails reveal how an inexperienced trio of Trump’s cronies worked to make big changes to the health care provider for 9 million veterans
By Andy Kroll

WASHINGTON — They were called the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” by people inside the government. A damning exposé dubbed them the “shadow rulers of the VA.”

In the early days of the Trump administration, a trio of businessmen — one of whom was a member of the president’s private Mar-a-Lago club — worked behind the scenes to shape policy at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the $200-billion federal agency that provides healthcare to nearly 9 million vets. As ProPublica and other news organizations documented, Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, a doctor in West Palm Beach named Bruce Moskowitz, and a D.C. lawyer named Marc Sherman formed a triumvirate of outside advisers, vetting VA personnel decisions, corresponding with the agency’s leader, and proposing their own ideas for reforming the VA.

Despite having no government experience among them, the Mar-a-Lago Crowd exerted unprecedented clout inside the VA. “The Mar-a-Lago Crowd spoke with VA officials daily,” ProPublica reported, “reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions.” On the subject of preventing veteran suicides — an issue of paramount importance with an average of 20 such suicides a day — one anonymous VA official said of the Mar-a-Lago Crowd, “Everything needs to be run by them. They view themselves as making the decisions.”

Now, internal emails obtained by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) reveal a new facet of the Mar-a-Lago Crowd saga: the frustration and anger felt by government employees at having to deal with Trump cronies meddling in the agency’s work. (Perlmutter, Moskowitz, and Sherman did not respond to requests for comment. In response to questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren about their unofficial roles, they said they “never profited, nor sought to profit” from their “volunteered” work with the VA.)

In a November 2017 email exchange, a senior official and medical doctor fumes about having to respond to questions from someone described as “POTUS friend/doctor” — an apparent reference to Moskowitz. The VA official, Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, writes: “I’d be happy to respond to this but these questions are just ridiculous. They don’t make sense and there is basic [sic] lack of understanding” about relevant issues. “I’m just baffled,” she goes on to write. (According to LinkedIn, Zenooz no longer works at the VA.)



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Reply 'Just Ridiculous': Trump's Mar-a-Lago Cronies Meddled in Veterans Affairs as Employees Seethed [View all]
babylonsister Aug 2019 OP
Retrograde Aug 2019 #1
spanone Aug 2019 #2
malaise Aug 2019 #4
spanone Aug 2019 #6
Liberal In Texas Aug 2019 #3
dawg day Aug 2019 #5
lanlady Aug 2019 #7