Trump's golf buddies made life hell for workers at the VA.
It's well known that Trump sees the presidency as nothing but an opportunity for him and his cronies to make money. Newly released documents obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs show just how bad this can get for government employees tasked with dealing with Trump's friends.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for data about three Mar-a-Lago members who managed to gain a shocking amount of control over the VA for a time. What they found was stunning.
In late 2018, it came to light that Trump let Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, physician Bruce Moskowitz, and lawyer Marc Sherman — none of whom had any relevant experience — run roughshod over the agency.
They reviewed multibillion-dollar confidential government contracts, tried to get the VA to partner with Apple on a half-baked application, and had influence over picking who would run the department.
When the arrangement first came to light, the GOP tried to ignore it. But when the Democrats took the House in 2018, they opened an official investigation. The documents obtained by CREW help make clear how necessary that investigation is.
The emails show career VA employees — the people with actual expertise — scrambling to try to accommodate three rich people who were functionally nothing but golf buddies of Trump's.
For example, throughout 2017 and 2018, VA employees working on the Electronic Health Record Modernization program were stuck fielding questions from Moskowitz. Although VA staff said the questions Moskowitz had were "just ridiculous" and his understanding was outdated, they were required to respond. Why? Because the questions were "coming from POTUS friend/doctor."
The emails also show Moskowitz participating in calls with VA staff on the project, even though he had no professional reason or ability to do so. Moskowitz also pressured staff to send him documents, telling them, "you have my NDA [non-disclosure agreement]. Please send ASAP." Moskowitz demanded that he and Sherman "be on every call that the group is on" to discuss a specific contract.
Employees also had to set up additional phone calls to provide "basic orientation to the government contract structure" for Perlmutter, Moskowitz, and Sherman because none of them were familiar with government contracts. One employee noted Sherman understood neither the context of government work nor contracts for application development.
All of these employees had to waste time and taxpayer money to allow the Mar-a-Lago trio to meddle with government contracts and provide uninformed — and unasked-for — input. It's sheer luck the trio got busted before they could do any further harm.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.