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VA chief latest Trump cabinet secretary to face ethics mess

It's been tough to keep up with all of the controversies and investigations into members of Trump's cabinet. Add VA Secretary David Shulkin to the list.
This May 19, 2014 photo shows a  a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC.
This May 19, 2014 photo shows a a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC.

It's been tough to keep up with all of the various controversies and investigations into members of Donald Trump's cabinet.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s actions have become the subject of more than one official investigation. There was also HHS Secretary Tom Price, who was also under investigation, right up until the scandal forced his resignation.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under investigation. So is HUD Secretary Ben Carson. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was investigated for violating the Hatch Act. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been caught up in so many controversies, it’s been difficult to keep up with all of them.

The president himself appears to be the subject of an obstruction-of-justice probe.

And it's against this backdrop that the spotlight today turns to VA Secretary David Shulkin, who appears to have an ethics mess of his own on his hands. USA Today  reported:

Investigators determined Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife during a European trip last summer that ultimately cost taxpayers more than $122,000, according to a VA inspector general report released Wednesday.His chief of staff, Viveca Wright Simpson, made false representations to a VA ethics lawyer and altered an official email to secure approval for taxpayer funding of Shulkin's wife's flights, which cost more than $4,000, the VA inspector general found.

The cabinet secretary told investigators that the Wimbledon tickets came from a personal friend. Ethics officials concluded that wasn't true. Making matters worse were the inspector general's findings that Shulkin spent nearly half of an official 10-day trip in Europe on sightseeing, amounting to a "misuse" of official VA resources.

Shulkin has denied any wrongdoing and described the conclusions as "outrageous" and "totally inaccurate." That said, the VA secretary will reimburse the department for the travel expenses in question.

As for the allegations that Shulkin's chief of staff altered an official email to help justify the trip, a Washington Post  report added, "In an interview with investigators, Wright Simpson said she did not recall whether she altered the email." Inspector General Michael Missal added in his report that in a second interview, Wright Simpson did not directly respond to questions about the email.

What happens now? Your guess is as good as mine, though I wouldn't necessarily assume anyone's job is in jeopardy. In Trump World, there's a pretty high tolerance for officials accused of ethical lapses.