How Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter and two other Mar-a-Lago cronies are secretly shaping the Trump administration’s veterans policies.
.. shortly after Peter O’Rourke became chief of staff for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he received an email from Bruce Moskowitz with his input on a new mental health initiative for the VA.
.. an informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA from Mar-a-Lago
.. The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, who is a longtime acquaintance of President Trump’s. The third member is a lawyer named Marc Sherman. None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government.
.. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd.”
.. they downplayed their influence, insisting that nobody is obligated to act on their counsel.
.. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd spoke with VA officials daily, the documents show, reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions. They prodded the VA to start new programs, and officials travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring,” a former administration official said.
.. If the bureaucracy resists the trio’s wishes, Perlmutter has a powerful ally: The President of the United States. Trump and Perlmutter regularly talk on the phone and dine together when the president visits Mar-a-Lago. “On any veterans issue, the first person the president calls is Ike,”
.. VA leaders who were at odds with the Mar-A-Lago Crowd were pushed out or passed over.
.. Offering more private healthcare to vets was a signature promise of Trump’s campaign, but at that point he hadn’t decided who should lead an effort that would reverse the VA’s longstanding practices.
.. Perlmutter then recommended Shulkin to Trump
.. Once nominated, Shulkin flew to Mar-a-Lago in early February 2017 to meet with Perlmutter, Sherman and Moskowitz.
.. Moskowitz elaborated on the terms of their relationship. “We do not need to meet in person monthly, but meet face to face only when necessary,” he wrote. “We will set up phone conference calls at a convenient time.”
.. Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman acted like board members pounding a CEO to turn around a struggling company
.. “Everything needs to be run by them,” the first former official said, recalling the process. “They view themselves as making the decisions.”
.. They planned to promote the campaign by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange around the time of Veterans Day.
The event also turned into a promotional opportunity for Perlmutter’s company. Executives from Marvel and its parent company, Disney, joined Johnson & Johnson as sponsors of the Veterans Day event at the stock exchange.
.. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd grew frustrated with Shulkin, feeling like he wasn’t listening to them, and Perlmutter came to regret recommending Shulkin to Trump in the first place
.. Trump initially nominated White House doctor Ronny Jackson to replace Shulkin, with Pentagon official Robert Wilkie filling in on a temporary basis. On Wilkie’s first day at the VA, Sherman was waiting for him in his office, according to a calendar record.
Within a few weeks, Wilkie made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago.