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VA Secretary Shulkin to pay back his wife’s Europe getaway expenses

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Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Thursday he would pay back the U.S. government costs related to a trip to Europe for his wife, but will not resign following a critical internal-watchdog report.

Shulkin was the subject of the recent internal investigation that revealed he owed the government more than $4,000 for his wife’s trip to Copenhagen and London.

The investigation claimed to have found Shulkin’s top aide, Vivieca Wright Simpson, doctoring emails to say her boss was getting “special recognition” in Denmark as a way to justify his wife’s taxpayer-funded travel.

“The investigation revealed serious derelictions” by Shulkin and his staff, according to the report, which cited “poor judgment and/or misconduct.” The report advised Shulkin to pay back $4,312 to the government.

Shulkin told reporters Thursday that he will follow the advice of the report and pay back any costs associated with his wife’s trip, including making a contribution to U.S. treasure equal to the cost of tickets to the prestigious Wimbledon Tennis tournament, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Everybody is concerned,” Shulkin said after appearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. “Everybody knows how much work we have to do in the VA. We have to continue the progress.”

He added that he has spoken to President Donald Trump about the report’s findings and will meet White House officials to discuss the contents of the revelations.

In a testimony in Congress, Shulkin insisted the trip to Europe was necessary but the “optics of this were not good.”

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, a member of the committee, scoffed at the explanation, saying “It’s not the optics that are not good.”

Coffman was among the leading voices calling for Shulkin’s ouster from his position. “It’s exactly corruption and abuses like this that doesn’t help our veterans,” the lawmaker tweeted earlier this week, adding that Shulkin “must resign now.”

GOP REP CALLS ON VA SECRETARY SHULKIN TO RESIGN OVER EUROPE TRIP EXPENSES

This is not the first time an official in the Trump administration came under fire for unauthorized taxpayer-funded trips. Former health secretary Tom Price was forced to resign in September after questions over his use of private jets for government trips.

The total cost of the 10-day trip in July last year was at least $122,000, the report found. Shulkin reportedly attended meetings in London and Copenhagen concerning veterans’ issues.

But the overseas trip also included “significant personal time for sightseeing and other unofficial activities” at taxpayers’ expense, including a tour of Westminster Abbey, a cruise on the Thames River, and attending the women’s final at Wimbledon tennis tournament with American Venus Williams.

Shulkin defended his wife’s presence on his work trip, telling the committee that he and his staff followed all the processes. “Everything was done properly, but I regret any of this is a distraction from what we should be doing and that’s the reason I’m following the inspector general’s recommendations.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Merkel ally says Scotland 'very active' in Brussels – MEP ready to welcome Sturgeon back

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ANGELA MERKEL’s ally David McAllister said he feels Scotland is already a new independent member of the European Union, in a boost to Nicola Sturgeon’s quest to break away from the UK.

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Harris implores Black Americans to get Covid vaccines despite ‘righteous skepticism’

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Vice President Kamala Harris addressed concerns that some Black Americans have had about Covid-19 vaccines, encouraging them to get the shot despite historical skepticism of the medical field.

“We must speak truth about the history of medical testing in this country,” Harris said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton.

“We must be honest about the fact that people have a righteous skepticism about how it has been used, how it has been tested and on whom it will be used,” Harris said.

The U.S. has a long record of unethical medical experimentation on Black Americans, from non-consensual testing on slaves to forced sterilization during the early 20th century and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. As NBC News has reported, experts have cautioned that this history, along with broader health care disparities in the modern era, has led to a distrust of the vaccine‘s safety.

Harris pointed to her own experience receiving the Covid vaccine to build trust in others.

“I got vaccinated,” she said. “I can tell you first of all that these vaccines are safe. It will save your life. There is a Black woman, Dr. Kizzy Corbet, who was part of the team of scientists who created this vaccine and it will save your life.”

“So, get your vaccination when it is your turn,” Harris said.

But the vaccines’ chaotic rollout, including supply shortages and disruptions with distribution due to winter storms, has created widespread accessibility issues.

The Biden administration recently purchased 200 million doses, and it doubled in distribution numbers last week, sending two million doses to 7,000 pharmacies across the country with its Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The last five weeks have seen a nearly 70 percent increase in vaccine distribution.

Harris visited a local pharmacy and program participant in Washington D.C. Thursday morning, where she also addressed vaccine skepticism.

“There have been many theories about populations that are experiencing vaccine hesitancy for legitimate reasons that are based on historical experience that we should never forget,” Harris said.

Harris’ interview with Sharpton airs in full on Saturday.

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We miss you already! Leading MEP admits Brussels is 'very, very sad' over Brexit

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THE EU is “very, very, sad” the UK left the bloc as Liz Truss prepares to strike large trade deals with countries across the world, an MEP has said.

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