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Washington Post: Trump loyalists reassign, remove VA employees

Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs loyal to President Donald Trump have reassigned or remove staffers per...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 1:40 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 1:40 PM

Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs loyal to President Donald Trump have reassigned or remove staffers perceived as disloyal to the President and his agenda for veterans, people familiar with the actions told The Washington Post.

The Post reported that the transfers include more than a dozen career civil servants in leadership positions at the VA's headquarters, who were given lower-visibility roles. The staffers say they were given no reasons for the changes, according to The Washington Post.

The Post said the moves have been conducted by political appointees led by the VA's acting secretary, Peter O'Rourke. They are the latest sign of fractures at the agency, which came to a head months ago when former Secretary David Shulkin was ousted. The VA continues to suffer from sinking morale and has been shedding senior staff for months.

The Washington Post first reported, and CNN confirmed with a source familiar with the situation, that at least a half-dozen senior career staffers at the Veterans Benefits Administration have been transferred to less influential roles, some in other cities. But the reassignments and removals go beyond that part of the sprawling agency, according to The Washington Post, and have taken place as the President's nominee to lead the VA, Robert Wilkie, awaits full Senate confirmation.

A Pentagon spokesperson told CNN that Wilkie, who remains in his job as the head of military personnel at the Defense Department as he awaits the Senate vote, was not aware of or involved with the decisions.

"Any decisions made following Mr. Wilkie's departure as Acting SecVA were made by the current VA leadership and Mr. Wilkie was not aware, nor a part of those decisions," Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokesperson, told CNN. "It would be inappropriate for him to comment on this in his current role as USD."

VA spokesman Curt Cashour told CNN that Wilkie has had "zero involvement in VA decisions since he returned to the Department of Defense May 30." Cashour said that the personnel moves "are what's required to ensure VA is performing at its best.

"Under President Trump, VA won't wait to take necessary action when it comes to improving the department and its service to Veterans," he added.

Cashour added that in some cases, "employees who were wedded to the status quo and not on board with this administration's policies have departed VA," noting that some left the agency willingly, and others "against their will as they were about to be fired."

"It's understandable that some of these individuals would want to shift blame away from themselves in an attempt to save face. But the bottom line is that in President Trump's VA, if employees aren't getting the job done for veterans, it's time for them to move on," Cashour said.

O'Rourke was on Capitol Hill this week for a hearing about the VA's whistleblower protection office, which he used to lead, and was questioned by multiple members of Congress about the agency's staffing. In one exchange,Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat, asked O'Rourke "under what circumstances is disagreeing with the administration a fireable offense?"

Peters cited a VA news release issued in April in which the agency says that "under VA's new leadership, which is now firmly aligned with President Trump and his priorities, the department's operations have improved in many ways." The release goes on to say, "In a number of cases, employees who were wedded to the status quo and not on board with this administration's policies or pace of change have now departed VA."

O'Rourke told Peters that when any agency experiences an organizational shift, sometimes "folks realize, maybe on their own, that they don't want to be there."

"I think there's a few cases that we could look at of folks in senior positions where they advocated for a different approach and then the organization ... went in a different direction, and they felt like that wasn't a place they didn't want to be anymore," O'Rourke said.

In a separate exchange during the hearing, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Connecticut Democrat, asked O'Rourke to explain why he had "removed, demoted or reassigned" a large number of career employees.

O'Rourke told Esty the moves were well planned and designed to improve "efficiency and effectiveness." Esty countered she believed that "loyalty concerns" were the reason for the transfers.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
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Columbus
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Very hot and very humid conditions linger in our area for our Saturday. However, the heat and humidity start to dwindle a bit as we go into our Sunday and beyond. As a matter of fact below normal high temperatures for this time of year.
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