White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was grilled by CNN’s Jake Tapper Thursday over embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Shinseki, under fire for a scandal where officials fabricated patient wait times which ultimately resulted in the deaths of veterans, testified before Congress Thursday.
After his testimony, Tapper grilled McDonough, asking how President Barack Obama can continue to have confidence in him.
“Obviously, General Shinseki served his country honorably. We all appreciate his service, but how on earth can the president have full confidence in him?” Tapper asked. “People died.”
[sharequote align=”center”]”[H]ow on earth can the president have full confidence in him? People died.”[/sharequote]
“The fact of these deaths is an outrage to the president,” McDonough responded. “He’s made that clear. And you heard what General Shinseki had to say today. He’s mad as hell about this.”
“But Shinseki has dedicated his life to the armed forces of the United States, to the defense of this country,” he added. “And he has shown over the course of nearly six years now his commitment to our veterans.”
That answer didn’t appear to satisfy Tapper, who cited letters that previously notified Shinseki about possible problems within the VA.
“How many stories like this, how many letters like this, how many dead veterans do you need before somebody asks the question within the White House, maybe this guy isn’t the best steward of these veterans?” Tapper asked.
“The question, Jake, is, are we doing everything we can every day to get the veterans the care and the opportunities that they deserve?” McDonough answered.
“But you are not,” Tapper replied. “This letter was sent a year ago. And you guys ignored it.”
McDonough responded, saying the White House is “working aggressively” to make sure “people are held to account.”
Earlier in the interview, he had said that Shinseki “holds himself accountable” for his actions.
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