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Fired Veterans Affairs Secretary Defends Controversial Euro Trip as ‘Very Important Business Trip’

David Shulkin, the Veterans Affairs secretary whose firing President Donald Trump announced this week in a tweet, isn’t leaving the administration quietly.

Shulkin joined Good Morning America on Friday morning to discuss the latest White House shakeup, and his concerns that privatizing the V.A. — one of the largest federal agencies — will only hurt the nation’s veterans.

“There’s a number of political appointees who weren’t happy because I wanted to make sure that we were building a strong V.A. at the same time that we did work with the private sector,” Shulkin said. “These political appointees I think feel that we need to do is dismantle the V.A. and move everything to the private sector.”

The embattled secretary faced controversy in recent months over a scathing inspector general report about a trip he took to Europe, in which he reportedly used taxpayer funds inappropriately to pay for his wife’s travels, and accepted tickets to a tennis match at Wimbledon.

“This was a very important business trip, we met with our five allies; there were 40 hours of lectures; everything that I did was pre-approved by our ethics committee,” he said. “There was nothing that was done improper. What happened was this was a politicized issue, this was used to try to decrease my effectiveness in getting the job done for our veterans.”

Shulkin said he spoke with Trump about the progress he was making at the agency, and warned against privatizing the entire agency during his tenure as secretary.

His comments on Friday echoed an op-ed published in the New York Times on Wednesday, in which he described the accomplishments the agency saw under his leadership until recent months.

“The environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve,” Shulkin wrote. “As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.”

Watch a clip of the interview via Good Morning America above.

[image via screengrab]

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