According to recently revealed records from congressional investigators, former President Donald Trump directed individuals from his private club to explore a scheme for the Department of Veterans Affairs to monetize patient data.
As previously reported, a trio stationed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club weighed in on policy and personnel choices for the federal government’s second-largest department, despite having no prior experience in the federal government or military.
While prior reports indicated that the trio was involved in budgeting and contracting, their interest in converting patient data into a cash stream remained unknown. More than 9 million veterans get medical treatment from the VA at over 1,000 institutions around the nation.
“Patient data is, in my opinion, the most valuable assets [sic] the VA has,” a consultant said in a June 2017 email obtained by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee and published Monday. “It can be leveraged into hundreds of millions in revenue,” he claimed, by selling access to huge corporations.
Terry Fadem administered a private foundation for Bruce Moskowitz, a West Palm Beach, Florida, physician who was one of three Trump allies granted extensive power over the VA, dubbed “the Mar-a-Lago crowd” by authorities.
In response to Fadem’s email, Moskowitz informed then-VA Secretary David Shulkin that he had discussed the concept with firms including as Johnson & Johnson, CVS, and Apple. According to the records, Shulkin responded that he loved the concept.
According to the emails, senior authorities hurried to recruit Fadem as a contractor, although it’s unclear if his contract was granted. In a June 2017 email, Poonam Alaigh, the agency’s senior health officer, wrote, “I am working on trying to understand why and where [h]is contract is stuck. I agree, having him on board as soon as possible will be critical.”
The records include no information on what happened to the scheme or if the VA actually sold access to patient data. There is no proof in the documents that Moskowitz or the other Mar-a-Lago colleagues were in a position to benefit directly.
According to a representative for the trio, Fadem was not employed, and the VA never followed through on the licensing concept. “We were asked repeatedly by former Secretary Shulkin and his senior staff, as well as by the President, to assist the VA and that is what we sought to do, period,” the three said in a statement.
Requests for comment from Shulkin, Alaigh, Trump’s administration, the VA, Johnson & Johnson, CVS, and Apple were not immediately returned. Fadem passed away in 2019.
The new discovery adds to the impression of Trump’s strong influence over the Mar-a-Lago triumvirate’s agenda for veterans, a key topic in his 2016 campaign. The discoveries made concerning the men’s day-to-day engagement spurred congressional committees and the Government Accountability Office to launch investigations, as well as a legal challenge.
Mar-a-Lago is the center of schemes.
U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia raised more than $1 million for his campaign and an allied super PAC while his guests sampled short ribs and chocolate cake at a Dec. 1 reception held in Mar-a-Lago‘s gilded ballroom and others mingled at another event held by the pool.
The following evening, Trump dined with about 20 couples at his private Florida club, each of whom contributed $250,000 to the Make America Great Again Again super PAC, which is run by close allies of the former president.
Turning Point USA, a conservative group for young Americans, held a sprawling event at Mar-a-Lago two days later, with organizers claiming Trump’s presence was key to attracting 750 guests.
Since Trump’s return from his New Jersey club to Palm Beach, Fla., this fall, Mar-a-Lago has become a hotbed for Republican fundraisers, with candidates competing to line the former president’s pockets in the hopes of winning his endorsement, getting a photo with him, or simply giving donors the opportunity to be in his presence.
The surge in business at Trump’s private club exemplifies the unprecedented manner in which Trump has personally profited from his presidency and GOP popularity — a revenue stream that began during his presidency and has only grown since he left office. Rather than hosting fellow Republicans, Trump charges them for the use of his facilities.
Based on campaign finance records and social media posts, at least 30 events were held by GOP candidates or conservative groups at Trump properties through mid-December. That’s more than was counted in any previous year; in 2020, There were 13 such fundraisers, the majority of which were paid for by Trump’s reelection campaign.
According to club members and Trump advisers familiar with the events, the total number of fundraisers held at Trump properties in 2021 will be far greater than the 30 identified so far by The Post.
According to people familiar with the schedule, many of the largest gatherings have occurred in recent months, including the Walker fundraiser, the Log Cabin Republicans’ “Spirit of Lincoln Gala,” and the Turning Point gala. Several fundraisers have been held in one evening in recent weeks, according to advisers.
The consistent business shows that, despite the former president’s lies about the 2020 election, his supporters’ Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and a polarizing presidency in which many charities and businesses stopped patronizing his properties, Trump has maintained a stable base of political business due to his strength within the Republican Party.
Mar-a- Lago, according to people familiar with the events, is a particularly popular venue with Trump-inspired candidates, those running for the first time, and those competing in crowded Republican primaries.
GOP Reps. Elise Stefanik (NY) and Jeff Van Drew (NJ) are among those planning fundraisers at the club, according to Trump advisers. Stefanik said in a news release that she was “honored” to kick off her reelection campaign “with my friend President Trump at Mar-A-Lago.” Van Drew’s adviser confirmed the upcoming fundraiser but declined to comment.
The rush of paid GOP events at Trump’s club, according to Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University, is “indicative of how powerful of a hold he has on the party.”
While other former presidents have given paid speeches or served on lucrative boards, Zelizer noted that they did not rent property to candidates while serving as GOP kingmaker and contemplating another White House run.
“It‘s like a party boss, with one of his homes being the place for wheeling and dealing and picking the next Senate candidate,” Zelizer said.
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