Washington Post: Watchdog told prosecutors that probe of VA secretary found potentially criminal conduct
Posted December 9, 2020 10:11 p.m. EST
CNN — The inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs told prosecutors this fall that his investigation of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie had turned up possible criminal conduct, three current and former federal officials told The Washington Post.
The inspector general, Michael Missal, had reviewed claims that Wilkie attempted to discredit a House staff member who reported she had been sexually assaulted at a VA facility in Washington. Prosecutors did not think there was enough evidence to prompt charges, two federal officials told the Post, but Missal's communication underscores the gravity of the probe.
Wilkie told the newspaper in a statement, "After nearly a year of investigation, interviews with 65 people and analysis of nearly 1.5 million documents, VA's inspector general cannot substantiate that I sought to investigate or asked others to investigate the Veteran. That's because these allegations are false."
Wilkie added that "VA takes all allegations of sexual assault seriously."
Missal launched his review in February following a request to investigate allegations that Wilkie had sought "damaging information" about Andrea Goldstein, a congressional staffer who alleged she had been sexually assaulted at a government-run veterans hospital.
CNN does not usually name victims of sexual assault but Goldstein has spoken publicly, including in an op-ed for Jezebel last February, on the situation.
"The Secretary cannot claim that VA is a safe place when his public actions perpetuate a culture of violence. Not only did a cabinet official attack a victim publicly, he sent a resounding message to women veterans and survivors already fighting for basic shreds of dignity," she wrote then.
According to the Post, the inspector general's office communicated to prosecutors that possible violations of the law by Wilkie were interference with the investigation into whether Goldstein had been assaulted and perjury during his testimony to investigators.
The reported findings mark just the latest wrinkle in Wilkie's tenure since he became secretary in summer 2018.
In October, top Democrats on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees accused Wilkie of possibly misusing taxpayer funds to benefit President Donald Trump's campaign -- a charge the VA denied.
And CNN's KFile reported in 2018 that Wilkie had praised Confederate States President Jefferson Davis effusively in a 1995 speech, calling him a "martyr to 'The Lost Cause'" and an "exceptional man in an exceptional age."