The White House is now saying that VA Secretary David Shulkin actually resigned and wasn’t fired

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

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Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
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Carlos Barria/Reuters

  • A White House spokesperson contradicted former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s claim that he was fired from his job on Wednesday.
  • The spokesperson told Politico on Saturday that Shulkin resigned.
  • The claim comes amid questions about President Donald Trump’s authority to appoint an acting secretary to replace Shulkin until a new secretary is confirmed by the Senate.

The White House said on Saturday that ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin resigned from his post earlier this week, contradicting Shulkin’s claim that he was fired.

“Secretary Shulkin resigned from his position as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” a White House spokesperson told Politico in response to questions about President Donald Trump’s legal authority to appoint Shulkin’s replacement.

On Wednesday, Trump announced on Twitter that he intended to nominate Admiral Ronny Jackson, the official White House physician, as the new secretary of the VA. Defense Department official Robert Wilkie, Trump said, would lead the department in the interim.

But Trump’s decision to bypass the VA’s second-in-command – who was supposed to succeed Shulkin – and appoint Wilkie instead could present legal problems for his administration.

As Politico pointed out, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, passed in 1998, says the president has the power to appoint an acting official to a vacant position if the current officer holder “dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.”

But if an official is fired, as Shulkin claims he was, it’s not entirely clear if Trump is still able to appoint anyone he wants as acting secretary.

Shulkin has repeatedly described his removal as a firing.

During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Shulkin said he had no idea he was about to be terminated until White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called him to give him a heads up that Trump was about to let him go. Trump then announced Shulkin’s ouster on Twitter.

Shulkin argued that he was removed for political reasons, and that certain officials within the VA were actively trying to get rid of him because of the direction in which he wanted to take the department.

“I think that [Trump’s] not being well served by all the people around him,” Shulkin told USA Today. “As big of an organization as he needs to run, you need to have the right people around you with the right team, and, you know, we see with all the turnover and different things going on that are happening in the White House, that he’s still trying to figure that out.”