President Donald Trump gave a surprise announcement that he’ll be nominating Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to lead the department.
The impromptu announcement blindsided reporters during a meeting on prison reform on Friday, immediately after the president offered his condolences to the victims in a shooting at a Texas high school earlier in the day.
Trump said that he hasn’t yet informed Wilkie about the decision, setting up the acting secretary for a big surprise.
“We’re going to be putting his name up for nomination to be Secretary of the Veterans Administration,” Trump said nonchalantly.
“He doesn’t know this yet,” Trump said. “I’m sorry that I ruined the surprise.”
President Trump on Robert Wilkie: “We’re going to be putting his name up for nomination to be Secretary of the Veterans Administration.” pic.twitter.com/uXs4loUbpP
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 18, 2018
Trump went on to praise Wilkie’s work at the VA after David Shulkin’s departure from the position.
Wilkie’s nomination to lead the second biggest department comes after Trump’s previous nominee, Dr. Ronny Jackson, was forced to withdraw his nomination in the face of accusations of workplace misconduct. Former colleagues of Jackson had alleged that he overprescribed medication and drank on the job.
The White House hopes that Wilkie will be an easier nomination that will be able to pass a vote in the Senate without controversy. In addition to the accusation against Jackson, many senators argued that the White House doctor had little experience managing a major department, a charge Wilkie should be able to avoid.