Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin appeared to send a message to President Donald Trump by exiling senior White House adviser Jake Leinenkugel, who worked as Trump’s “eyes and ears” in the agency, to a glorified cubicle resembling the “entrance to a mechanical area,” according to an employee who saw it.
His desk was moved in the last week from an office next to Shulkin’s on the 10th floor, which houses executives, to a “cubicle/office” in the middle of the seventh floor.
The employee called it “an island in Siberia.”
The tiny slight was one of Shulkin’s final acts at the helm of the 300,000-employee, $200 billion Department of Veterans Affairs.
Trump fired him Wednesday.
“You go through this winding area of what looks like would-be utility rooms. There’s no administrative assistant [who] greets you or anything. It’s about 8 by 10, no natural light, with see-through partitions. I saw his nameplate,” the employee said.
The employee added, “This happened in the last week. I think it could have been the last straw.”
Shulkin, who was originally appointed to the VA position by former President Barack Obama, battled conservatives like Darin Selnick, the White House Domestic Policy Council veteran affairs adviser, and Leinenkugel, a Trump official embedded in the VA.
Both Selnick and Leinenkugel struggled against Shulkin to implement policies conservatives favored at the agency.
Leinenkugel noted that Shulkin’s right-hand woman, Chief of Staff Vivieca Wright Simpson, proudly said she was a Democrat. She resigned in February.
But with Trump’s firing of Shulkin on Wednesday, Leinenkugel might once again be moving back to the corner office.
Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado who is former chairman of its oversight panel, cheered Shulkin’s removal and Trump’s choice of Adm. Ronny Jackson to replace him.
“Dr. Shulkin came from within the VA and did nothing to clean up the culture of bureaucratic incompetence that has defined the leadership at the VA,” Coffman said. “I’m absolutely convinced that only someone from outside the VA can clean up the VA, and I hope that Admiral Jackson will be Marine Corps tough in getting that mission accomplished. Our veterans deserve better.”
A version of this article previously appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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