The Trump administration is defending itself after three Mar-a-Lago members were appointed to top posts in the Department of Veteran Affairs, claiming that Watergate-era rules against corruption and promoting transparency shouldn’t apply.
The Trump administration faced a legal challenge from the left-leaning veterans group VoteVets, which claimed that the administration’s decision to appoint three Trump associates to a VA advisory committee was in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. As ProPublica noted, the rule was put in place in 1972 after Watergate to protect against government corruption and to inform the public when government agencies seek outside advisement.
The men — Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz, MD, and Marc Sherman — are members of what became known as the “Mar-A-Lago Council.” The Trump administration had tried to argue that the three Mar-a-Lago members aren’t technically part of an advisory committee, so the Watergate-era rule shouldn’t apply to them.
“Far from alleging that the department managed or controlled the three individuals, the complaint asserts quite the opposite: that the three individuals asserted influence over the department,” Justice Department lawyers said in the in a filing on Friday.
Because of the ongoing lawsuit, the VA’s inspector general has held back on releasing more documents on the Mar-a-Lago members to Congress and to a freedom of information request from ProPublica.
VoteVets argued in its initial court filing that all three of the Mar-a-Lago members had no experience either in the military or working within the government.
“Rather, each simply shares a financial relationship with Trump as a dues-paying member of the Mar-A-Lago Club, a private golf and social club in Palm Beach, Florida, owned by the Trump Organization,” the lawsuit noted, via HealthCareIT News.
The Trump administration is defending the legality of having three Trump associates help steer the Department of Veterans Affairs from the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort, asserting that a Watergate-era sunshine law on advisory committees shouldn’t apply. https://t.co/9goIAhRpsq
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) November 25, 2018
VoteVets has also argued that the Trump administration deserves to answer to the American people about why members of Donald Trump’s exclusive resort are given posts at the VA.
“President Trump’s recent effort to dismiss our case is the latest slap in the face to the men and women who have sacrificed to protect our country,” Will Fischer, VoteVets’ director of government relations, said in a statement. “America’s veterans deserve a commander-in-chief who cares enough about our well-being not to outsource decisions about our health care to dues-paying members of his golf club.”
Donald Trump has faced accusations that he remains too close to his business interests, including frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago during the winter season, and perks for members of the exclusive club.