The White House now claims that the recently deceased Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has resigned. Shulkin has made it clear in his public comments that he was forced.
While Washington often smashed burns in the verbal mantle of a resignation, this time around, the distinction might have far-reaching implications for the Department of Veterans Affairs (19659008) story continued below
With the announcement, Shulkin as VA Calling secretary Trump struck Defense Minister Rob Wilkie as the deputy head of the department, shuffling over Shulkin's deputy, who was next in line to follow him. This decision has again triggered a debate among legal experts about the president's ability to seek compensation for the ousted cabinet secretaries.
The debate focuses on vague wording in the 1998 National Job Reform Act, which grants the president far-reaching powers to temporarily fill a federal agency with an incumbent official if the current incumbent dies, resigns or otherwise able to fulfill the functions and duties of the office.
However, some legal experts point out that the law does not explicitly empower the President in the event of redundancies, which could endorse Trump's decision to appoint Wilkie, Under-Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Preparedness VA Secretary to make a potential test for the presidential authorities under the law.
And it means that any formal action Wilkie as Deputy Secretary could pose a legal challenge that could stem much needed reform and modernization in the troubled agency.
As POLITICO the White House after a comment to d Asked about possible legal issues surrounding Shulkin's replacement, spokeswoman Lindsey Walters said in a statement, "Secretary Shulkin resigned from his position as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "
Walter's Commentary is in sharp contrast to the well-established story that Trump has fired Shulkin, and so far the White House has done little to correct the many press reports that Shulkin had been removed.
The White House declined to explain the circumstances surrounding Shulkin's fall or offer any evidence supporting the allegation.A VA spokesman referred a request for comment to the White House.
But a person who familiar with Shulkin's dismissal, very doubtful that Shulkin resigned, and noted that he had not submitted a letter of resignation, Shulkin's dismissal was so fast, the person said he was never given the opportunity to return to his office or join VA. Employees.
Shulkin, in turn, has publicly criticized the White House for its handling of its removal during an interview with MSNBC This week, he said Trump never mentioned that he threw him out during a telephone conversation on Wednesday. The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, informed him later that afternoon about the President's intention.
Under normal circumstances, VA No. 2, Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman, would have been the secretary after Shulkin left. But Trump and many in the White House have collided with Bowman for believing he is against efforts to move toward a privatized veteran health service.
Wilkie could serve as deputy chief of VA for several months, while Trump's candidate for the department's permanent leadership, the White House doctor Ronny Jackson, awaits confirmation in the Senate.
Any important political decision that Wilkie makes during this time could initiate a lawsuit from an injured party claiming that Wilkie does not have the legal authority to direct the department into an agency.
The succession issue could also reappear when Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions and attempts to install a Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from another agency. Rosenstein has received Trump's wrath in recent months.
Trump signed an executive order last year that reorganized the succession order in the Ministry of Justice.
A challenge to Trump's decision to appoint Wilkie would be unprecedented in experts. But some added that it could be an increasingly attractive option for outside groups seeking to lift the Trump government's policies.
"It's an open question – there are ways to read the law in both directions," said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Texas. "There is reason to wonder if Congress has given the President the opportunity to fill a vacancy he has created."
Although VA succession remains unchallenged, Vladeck said he should select an incumbent officer. Traditional succession could be a "dry run" for similar maneuvers with other authorities, including the Department of Justice.
Anne Joseph O Connell, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in job vacancy, said, "It's conceivable that someone might challenge a decision of the acting secretary, but it's really hard for me, a court to see that the act does not apply. "
O'Connell said she believes that the law is actually applicable to layoffs, and she cited several possible hurdles to a serious legal challenge. Among them: to find someone who was injured by a decision of the acting secretary, and convince a court that the law should prevent the presidents from selecting deputy secretaries after a shootout. Another possible difficulty: to find a way to distinguish between a dismissal and a forced resignation.
But there are possible ways for a lawsuit. Shulkin was fired before he signed a $ 16 billion electronic health records contract. If Wilkie signs the contract as acting manager, a party claiming to be injured by the contract may file a lawsuit, O & Connell noted.
The Ministry of Justice, for its part, has suggested that layoffs are applicable under the vacancies of the offense. In 1999, shortly after the law was signed, the DOJ announced that the "full extent" of what a vacancy would be in the law was "indeterminate". But the leadership noted that senators mentioned the issue of dismissal in the discussion of legislation
"In the debate on the ground, the senators, for example, said that an official" would otherwise be unable to perform the duties and duties of the office