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Democratic Rep. Walz: Justice Department should investigate Shulkin's hacking claim

The Justice Department should look into whether the email account for a top Veterans Affairs staffer had been hacked,...

Posted: Feb 16, 2018 9:55 AM
Updated: Feb 16, 2018 9:56 AM

The Justice Department should look into whether the email account for a top Veterans Affairs staffer had been hacked, and whether someone had been sending emails in her name, the top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs panel said Thursday.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota asked the department to look into "claims of email intrusion and tampering on government computers and networks," claims that Shulkin made in an interview Wednesday, citing evidence provided by his chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson.

Shulkin has been under recent fire for a more-than-weeklong taxpayer funded trip to England and Denmark last year after an investigation by Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal found "serious derelictions" in how the trip was handled.

Shulkin has maintained that he did nothing wrong, though he said Thursday during a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing that the "optics" of the situation were "not good," and that he regretted overshadowing the work his agency does on behalf of veterans. He said he wants to "make things right" and would follow all of the inspector general's recommendations, including repaying the government for his wife's flights.

In his report, released Wednesday, Missal said Shulkin's chief of staff altered an email and lied, leading the department to spend more than $4,000 on airfare for Shulkin's wife, Merle Bari, for the July 2017 trip.

According to the report, the language that was changed made it seem as though Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government, an honor that was used to justify the agency paying for Bari's flight.

But in an interview with Politico, Shulkin said that Wright Simpson denied sending the email with altered information and showed him evidence that her email had been hacked, and that someone had been sending emails in her name. Shulkin described Wright Simpson to Politico as a "37-year government employee with very high ethical standards as far as my dealings with her" and said that "this needs to be looked into."

Walz, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called Shulkin's allegations serious in his letter to Sessions.

"These allegations from the VA Secretary that the third-senior most official at VA may have been the target of criminals committing fraud and computer intrusion with the intent of harming her reputation, and that these criminal activities took place on VA computers and networks are very serious," Walz wrote.

"I refer these claims of email intrusion and tampering on government computers and networks, and whether other cyber crimes have been committed against senior level VA officials or on VA computers and its network for your review," Walz continued.

The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general referred Wright Simpson's behavior to the Justice Department, as Missal said her actions could have violated federal criminal statutes. The Justice Department declined to prosecute, according to Missal. A spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs referred questions about the allegation that Wright Simpson's email had been hacked, as well as a potential DOJ investigation, to Shulkin's private lawyers.

Eric Nitz, one of Shulkin's private attorneys, told CNN: "The Secretary became aware of unauthorized emails recently sent from the Chief of Staff's account. This matter is being investigated. At this time, the Secretary knows of no evidence to suggest this incident relates to the events described in the IG's report."

Shulkin told Politico that he spoke with President Donald Trump when he received a draft of the report a week ago. He described Trump as "receptive to hearing what this was about," but said the President "didn't indicate any particular direction about it. He said the President voiced his support for him remaining in the department's top job.

Shulkin is not the first Trump official to be mired in controversy over travel practices. He is one of five current or former Cabinet secretaries to be investigated over travel, including Tom Price, the former Health and Human Services secretary who resigned in September over his use of chartered flights for official travel.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 775686

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1066871814
Lake572681031
Allen43500701
Hamilton37653427
St. Joseph37508568
Elkhart29882471
Tippecanoe23732232
Vanderburgh23634405
Porter19690327
Johnson19020394
Hendricks18271323
Clark13730199
Madison13719348
Vigo12949256
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Delaware11218198
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Bartholomew8343157
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Grant7457181
Boone7289105
Wayne7273201
Morgan6988143
Marshall6376117
Dubois6327118
Cass6130112
Noble607391
Dearborn605878
Henry6001111
Jackson520977
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Lawrence5020128
Gibson471697
Montgomery464792
Clinton462755
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Harrison459277
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Whitley421045
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Brown106743
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Martin92715
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Union73910
Ohio58711
Unassigned0429

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1132798

Reported Deaths: 20530
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1312911496
Cuyahoga1180592268
Hamilton830231263
Montgomery541901064
Summit491891018
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Butler40324615
Stark34056941
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Licking16977227
Fairfield16959207
Trumbull16940493
Medina16019278
Greene15721254
Clark14439309
Portage13548219
Wood13411201
Allen12124245
Richland11870214
Miami11140229
Wayne9344228
Columbiana9282236
Muskingum9207137
Pickaway8796123
Marion8774140
Tuscarawas8756257
Erie8220166
Ashtabula7318180
Hancock7080135
Ross7070165
Geauga7032153
Scioto6887108
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Union595149
Jefferson5787162
Huron5678122
Sandusky5536130
Darke5476131
Seneca5391128
Washington5391111
Athens528660
Auglaize510587
Mercer492885
Shelby487798
Knox4678112
Ashland450198
Madison450066
Defiance444599
Fulton443275
Putnam4366104
Crawford4152112
Brown414163
Preble3988107
Logan396379
Clinton395667
Ottawa378281
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Williams361878
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Jackson324954
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Morrow298544
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Van Wert254465
Gallia254150
Adams253658
Pike247137
Wyandot236557
Hocking224163
Carroll203349
Paulding181542
Meigs153940
Monroe139446
Noble138739
Harrison115738
Morgan112024
Vinton88217
Unassigned04
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