- White House chief of staff John Kelly could be the harbinger of bad news for White House officials who are at risk of being fired.
- Former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin said that he received a phone call from Kelly “right before” President Donald Trump announced his ouster on Twitter.
- Kelly had also called then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson before Trump made the March 13 announcement about his replacement on Twitter.
- Shulkin also noted that Trump made no mention of his imminent firing during a phone call with the president hours earlier.
It looks like White House chief of staff John Kelly is becoming President Donald Trump’s go-between for Cabinet officials who are being fired.
In an interview with MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Thursday, former VA secretary David Shulkin, the latest Cabinet-level official to be ousted from the Trump administration, said that Kelly had called him “right before” Trump announced on Twitter that he intended to replace Shulkin.
“The chief of staff, Kelly, gave me a call, which I appreciated,” Shulkin said to Hayes. “He gave me a heads-up.”
This would be the second time that Kelly had notified a senior administration official prior to their official Twitter dismissal. Kelly called then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson to tell him he was being replaced before Trump delivered that tweet-announcement on March 13.
- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Shulkin also revealed that he had a “very focused” and “very inquisitive” phone call with Trump on Wednesday, before Kelly had contacted him the same day. Shulkin said Trump made no mention of his looming dismissal during that call.
“We spoke about the progress that I was making, what I needed to do from a policy perspective to make sure we are fixing the issues in VA,” Shulkin said.
Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration and the only one of Trump’s cabinet nominees to be confirmed unanimously, was scrutinized after an inspector general’s report found he had improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match during a $122,000 government-funded trip with his wife.
Shulkin later expressed regret for the incident and reimbursed the government for his wife’s travel expenses. He says he believes his dismissal was politically motivated.
“This was used in a political way to try to remove me,” Shulkin said to Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Thursday. “This is Washington. I’m a big boy, I understand that.”
“I’ve said that it shouldn’t be this hard to serve your country,” Shulkin continued. “And I don’t think it should be, but thankfully, there are many people that are still trying to fix our systems like the VA.”
Watch Shulkin’s comments below:
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) March 30, 2018