The trio of informal associates is reported to wield outsized influence over personnel and procurement decisions at the Veterans Affairs Department.
A pair of senators on Monday called on the Veterans Affairs Department inspector general to investigate whether a cabal of private Trump associates held outsized sway over the agency’s operations.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, penned a letter asking the Veterans Affairs inspector general to examine the actions of the so-called “Mar-a-Lago crowd.” Comprised of Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, Florida doctor Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman, the trio is reported to have influenced high-level personnel and procurement decisions within the department.
“Given the mounting evidence detailing the breadth and depth of the alleged involvement of Messrs. Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman in [Veterans Affairs] contracting, budgeting, and other functions, we believe it is important for the [inspector general] to initiate an investigation into the undue influence of these unqualified and unaccountable private citizens,” the lawmakers wrote.
An August investigation by ProPublica said the group actively worked to derail a $10 billion deal with Cerner Corp. to modernize the agency’s outdated electronic health records platform based on a personal disdain for the company’s software. In the report, agency officials said the group repeatedly butted heads with former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin over the project, and the disagreement ultimately led to Shulkin’s ouster.
A follow-up investigation found the trio also revised the budget for a federal program, weighed in on hiring decisions and edited non-disclosure agreements surrounding the Cerner contract.
The Wall Street Journal last month also reported Moskowitz actively pushed the agency to strike a deal with Apple to build software that gives vets easier access to their electronic health records. According to the report, Moskowitz went on to recommend the effort be led by his own son, who had developed a similar health record tool. The agency declined to comment on the project’s progress.
Warren and Schatz previously pushed the IG to investigate the trio when reports of their influence surfaced, but the watchdog decided against it.
“When you apparently declined our request to conduct an investigation, you informed us that ‘[a]s more information becomes available, we will determine the need to take action,’” the senators said. “More information has become available, and we believe it is appropriate for your office to fully investigate this matter.”