Report: Cabal runs VA from Mar-a-Lago

  • A group ultrawealthy members of Donald Trump's glitzy Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., are effectively running the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a report released by ProPublica on Tuesday. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS) Charles Trainor Jr.

New York Daily News
Published: 8/8/2018 11:20:59 PM

The real deep state is not run out of smoky Washington backrooms, but from President Donald Trump’s beachside Mar-a-Lago resort.

A shadowy cabal of ultrawealthy members of Trump’s glitzy club in Palm Beach, Fla., are effectively running the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a report released by ProPublica on Tuesday.

Reclusive Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, physician Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman — known within the agency as the “Mar-a-Lago crowd” — have influenced policy and made personnel decisions at the VA.

Trump’s golfing buddies exert “sweeping influence” over the embattled agency despite none of the three men serving in the military or holding government positions.

ProPublica obtained hundreds of documents showing how involved the three are in the department, expecting officials — including the secretary — to visit with them regularly at Mar-a-Lago.

An email sent to David Shulkin in February 2017, after Trump nominated him to be VA secretary, shows just how connected the three were to the inner workings of the department.

“We do not need to meet in person monthly, but meet face to face only when necessary,” Moskowitz wrote to Shulkin. “We will set up phone conference calls at a convenient time.”

A White House memo obtained by ProPublica also reveals that a number of officials singled out by the trio have all since been let go at an agency plagued by a lack of leadership.

The memo recommended replacing Shulkin, who later stepped away from his post amid an ethics scandal, and a host of other staffing changes.

“Put (Shulkin) on notice to exit after major legislation and key POTUS VA initiatives in place,” the memo said. “Utilize outside team (Ike).”

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told ProPublica the three “have no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Trump at first nominated Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor, to replace Shulkin, but his bid was torpedoed by concerns over allegations of medical misconduct.

Pentagon official Robert Wilkie took the post. He was met by Sherman in his office on his first day and visited Mar-a-Lago weeks after taking the job, according to records. The Trump triumvirate was pleased with the appointment.

“For the first time in 1½ years we feel everyone is on the same page. Everybody ‘gets it,’” Perlmutter wrote in an email. “Again, please know we are available and want to help any possible way 24/7.”

The rarely seen or photographed Marvel head has been a close friend of Trump for decades.

The Israeli-born businessman rescued Marvel Comics from bankruptcy in the 1990s and sold the company to Disney for $4 billion in 2009.

The 75-year-old served in the Israeli Army during the Six-Day War of 1967 before moving to the U.S.

Perlmutter’s actions related to the VA also benefited his own interests.

In February 2017, he organized a public awareness campaign about veteran suicide with the help of executives at Johnson & Johnson. The group planned to promote the campaign by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange around Veterans Day.

However, the event was used as a promotional opportunity for Marvel.

Executives from the company and Disney joined Johnson & Johnson as sponsors and the event featured Captain America and Spider-Man waving at Shulkin as he rang the bell above the trading floor.

VA spokesman Curt Cashour told ProPublica that “a broad range of input from individuals both inside and outside VA has helped us immensely over the last year and a half.”

And Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

“Any decisions of the agency or the president,” they said in the statement, “as well as the timing of any agency decisions, were independent of our contacts with the VA.”


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