Former VA Secretary David Shulkin defends controversial Europe trip, praises his replacement

PHOTO: Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin leaves after a hearing before the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of House Appropriations Committee, March 15, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.PlayAlex Wong/Getty Images
WATCH Fired Veterans Affairs secretary speaks out

Former Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin on Friday defended his controversial trip to Europe, saying the scathing report that revealed his acceptance of Wimbledon tickets was an attempt to "decrease his effectiveness" as secretary.

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"There was nothing that was done improper," Shulkin told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. "What happened was this was a politicized issue. This was used to try to decrease my effectiveness in getting the job done for our veterans."

Shulkin's remarks come after he alleged his character was under attack by the people he once worked closely with.

Shulkin, who is the most recent Trump appointee to be relieved of his duties, said he wasn't aware the president had intentions on firing him -- claiming Trump only inquired about what was being done to improve the agency.

"He had a lot of questions about it," Shulkin said of Trump. "He did not mention anything specifically about my position, but it was really more about the policies that were put in place."

Shulkin and Trump reportedly didn't see eye to eye on veteran care issues. Despite his differences with Trump, the report on Shulkin's misused government funds is what set the president to make his ultimate decision to fire him.

The internal investigation report found that the trip cost at least $122,334 in taxpayer money and was mostly composed of sightseeing with his wife.

Though relieved, Shulkin spoke highly of Trump's new VA Secretary pick, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson.

Jackson is facing skepticism due to his lack of managing experience, but Shulkin is confident he'll get the job done.

"He's going to need to build a team around him. I have confidence that he will be able to do that," Shulkin said. "I'll certainly do everything I can to make sure that he succeeds 'cause this is really too important for us as a country not to honor our mission to our veterans."

Shulkin also believes the VA should not be dismantled but should be free of partisan infighting.

"There are a lot of people in Washington who only are concerned about the politics and when it comes to the VA. I believe strongly this needs to be run without politics," Shulkin said. "This needs to be done in a bipartisan way and there are too many people that are trying to draw politics into the way we run VA."