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VA Secretary Shulkin to pay back some travel expenses after Europe trip faulted

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VA Secretary David Shulkin told lawmakers Thursday that he would repay more than $4,000 that was spent on his wife’s airfare for an 11-day trip to Europe this past summer.

A report made public Wednesday by the VA’s internal watchdog recommend that Shulkin reimburse $4,312 that was spent by the department on a plane ticket for Shulkin’s wife, Merle Bari. The report also found that Shulkin had improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

“I do recognize the optics of this are not good,” Shulkin told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, stressing that he wants to “make things right.”

The report also found that Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, altered emails to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award to justify his wife’s traveling on the public’s dime.

In all, an 11-member VA delegation, including Bari and six members of Shulkin’s security detail, traveled to England and Denmark last July, at a total cost to the agency of at least $122,334.

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

One lawmaker, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., has called on Shulkin to resign. Expressing impatience Thursday with some of Shulkin’s explanations, Coffman said: “It’s not the optics that are not good. It’s the facts that are not good.”

Four Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee urged the committee to hold a hearing with Shulkin and Wright Simpson as part of the committee’s investigation into alleged travel abuses by the Trump administration.

Other Cabinet members, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and EPA chief Scott Pruitt, have acknowledged the use of government or private flights costing tens of thousands of dollars. Zinke and Pruitt are being investigated by their respective department’s inspector general for their trips.

In September, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned amid questions about his use of private jets for government trips.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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'This won't end well' Meghan and Harry warned of US backlash as Sussexes go against Queen

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PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle cannot hope to win in a popularity contest against the Queen, even among Americans, a former MP who is now based in the US has said.

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Tom Barrack, former Trump inaugural chair, released on $250 million bond

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Former Trump inaugural committee chair Tom Barrack on Friday was released from federal lockup in California on a $250 million bond ahead of his scheduled arraignment in New York on charges he acted as an agent of the United Arab Emirates and obstructed justice.

As part of the terms of his release, Barrack, 74, is subject to electronic monitoring and will have to foot the bill for his GPS ankle bracelet, Judge Patricia Donahue ordered, signing off on an agreement that had been worked out between the government and Barrack’s attorneys.

Barrack, a private equity investor and founder of the investment firm Colony Capital, also had to surrender his passports and is barred from transferring funds overseas, the judge said. He cannot trade any securities without written permission from federal prosecutors and is not allowed to transfer more than $50,000 except for attorneys fees.

He’s scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn, New York on Monday. His spokesman said earlier this week that Barrack “is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty.”

A longtime friend of former President Donald Trump, Barrack had been behind bars since his arrest Tuesday on charges that he and two co-defendants were “acting and conspiring to act as agents” of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018, but without registering as foreign agents.

Prosecutors said Barrack and the others acted “to advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the United States at the direction of senior UAE officials by influencing the foreign policy positions of the campaign of a candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and, subsequently, the foreign policy positions of the U.S. government in the incoming administration.”

Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to federal law enforcement agents.



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BBC sparks fury: Over-75s left 'stressed' over licence fee crackdown as Covid cases soar

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OVER-75s are terrified the BBC will send round TV licence fee enforcement officers to their homes while Covid cases continue to surge.

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