June 21, 2021 21:34

Veterans Affairs IG Sought Criminal Probe of Secretary

The Veterans Affairs inspector general told federal prosecutors of possible criminal conduct by Secretary Robert Wilkie stemming from an investigation into whether he worked to discredit a congressional aide who said she was sexually assaulted, the Washington Post reports. The Justice Department has not pursued a case against Wilkie, a former Pentagon official who has served since 2018 as President Donald Trump’s second veterans chief. Prosecutors told Inspector General Michael Missal they did not think there was enough evidence presented to bring charges. Missal’s outreach to prosecutors suggests the seriousness of a probe that has engulfed the secretary and his top political staff for almost a year. Wilkie is the latest member of the Trump Cabinet to come under ethics scrutiny. The previous heads of five Cabinet agencies — Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor and VA — were fired or forced to leave after investigations into improper travel, lavish spending, ethical lapses and management decisions eroded White House confidence in them.

Missal probed Wilkie’s conduct after a request from House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA), who said Wilkie had worked to damage the credibility of his senior policy adviser, Navy veteran Andrea Goldstein. In 2019, after Goldstein said a man groped and propositioned her in the cafe in the main lobby of VA’s flagship medical center in Washington, D.C., Wilkie asked military officials about her military record. A report by Missal scheduled for release Thursday is expected to confirm the secretary’s repeated efforts to discredit Goldstein, both in and outside the agency. Wilkie accused Missal of cherry-picking confidential internal deliberations to make the agency look bad.

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