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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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Brexit bonanza: Unshackling from EU lands UK £4billion shot in the arm, new study shows

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BREXIT has given the UK economy a timely shot in the arm amounting to two percent of GDP – equal to almost £4billion – largely because unshackling itself from the EU enabled Britain to get a vital head-start on the vaccination rollout, a new analysis has indicated.

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Get over it! Juncker admits MAJOR Brexit mistake – 'I shouldn't have listened to Cameron!'

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JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER has admitted he should not have listened to David Cameron during Brexit in a major revelation today.

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GOP Reps. Greene, Gosar try to distance from ‘Anglo-Saxon’ traditions document

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Two far-right House Republicans linked to a document outlining a policy platform calling for the protection of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” distanced themselves from what they called a draft of prescriptions for a new “America First Caucus.”

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said in a Saturday statement that he “did not author” the document in circulation and only became aware of it after it was reported by the news media, adding that he “will continue to work on America First issues in the House Freedom Caucus.”

“Let me be perfectly clear, I did not author this paper,” he said. “In fact, I first became aware of it by reading about it in the news yesterday, like everyone else.”

Additionally, Nick Dyer, a spokesperson for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said in a statement that the document was merely “an early planning proposal and nothing was agreed to or approved.”

When the document first surfaced Friday, Dyer assailed “dirty backstabbing swamp creatures” for sharing the document with Punchbowl News, which first reported on its contents and said the effort was linked to Gosar and Greene. “Be on the look out for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it’s announced to the public very soon,” he added.

Greene herself released a statement Saturday calling the platform “a staff level draft proposal from an outside group that I hadn’t read.”

The outline for the new group contained a number of nativist ideas that Democrats lambasted as racist while some Republicans have also condemned the effort. The seven-page organizing document, which includes the group’s name and a logo, says: “America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

It adds that “societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.”

The document backs new infrastructure projects so long as they are in keeping with “the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”

Soon after the document’s release Friday, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told reporters he was considering joining the group and confirmed Greene’s involvement with it, adding though that he had not seen the platform language about Anglo-Saxon traditions.

“It’s not supposed to be about race at all,” he said. “We’re stronger as diversified. But there are some things that help make us strong. Slavery nearly destroyed us.”

Gosar and Greene both have faced backlash this year — Greene for her promotion of conspiracy theories, which led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to condemn her for spreading “loony lies” and the Democratic-controlled House removing her from committees in February, and Gosar for speaking at “Stop the Steal, promoting the Jan. 6 rally ahead of the Capitol riot and spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election.

Among the Republicans who pushed back on the platform included Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who tweeted Republicans “teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage.”

“Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil,” she continued. “History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.”

Speaking with NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, blasted the “so-called America First Caucus” as “one of the nuttiest things I’ve ever seen.”

“Listen, America is a land of immigration,” he said. “We’ve been the world’s giant melting pot for 250 years. And we ought to celebrate the fact that we are this giant melting pot. And to see some members of Congress go off and start this America First Caucus, it’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen. And Republicans need to denounce it.

Amanda Golden contributed.



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