President Trump used a White House summit on prison reform Friday to announce he will nominate Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to be the agency’s permanent secretary, in an announcement that shocked not only the audience, but Wilkie himself.
“I’ll be informing him in a little while, he doesn’t know this yet, that we’re going to be putting his name up for nomination to be secretary of the Veterans Administration,” the president said, to applause. “Fantastic. I’m sorry that I ruined the surprise.”
Mr. Trump had previously tapped White House doctor Ronny Jackson to run the VA, but unsubstantiated allegations about Jackson’s conduct tanked that nomination, and Jackson withdrew. Mr. Trump ousted his former VA secretary, David Shulkin, on Twitter earlier this year. Wilkie has been the acting director since then.
Wilkie served both Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld as an assistant secretary of defense between 2005 an 2008, and served as special assistant to the president for national security affairs under Condoleeza Rice, according to the VA.
This is a developing story and will be updated.