In the crowded, sauna-like VA Conference Room, POTUS had a few words about his first 100 days and the VA.
"In these first 100 days - which, as you know, I've been saying there's a very extreme emphasis placed on these 100 days, Joni [Ernst, who was in the room]. It's not quite as big as they say, but we have really laid a foundation, had a lot of legislation passed, which nobody understands, I think it's 28 bills, as of this moment, somebody said 'by the time it ends it's 32 bills,' and tremendous legislation, but we've already made huge strides to improve the VA. And the VA services." He cited a new web site that provides VA hospital wait times. "This is a web site that works. This is not the $5 billion Obamacare web site....does anybody remember the $5 billion website? No. I don't think so. We don't have to remember it anymore." He pointed to "same-day mental health services."
"Today, we're taking another bold step forward" by signing an order to create a whistleblower office at the VA. "This executive order makes it clear that we will never, ever tolerate sub-standard care for our great veterans. With the creation of this office, we are sending a strong message: Those who fail our veterans will be held, for the first time, accountable. At the same time, we will reward and retain the many VA employees - of which we have many," he said.
"Our veterans have secured this nation, with their blood, sweat and tears, and we will not let them down," he promised. POTUS said he was getting the message that he was doing a good job "through all forms of communication, of which we now have many." He did not elaborate.
As he moved from the lectern to the desk to sign the order, POTUS invited Isaac and Laurie Perlmutter to stand next to him. "They may not let you through for security purposes, but I'm not worried with you, Ike," he said. Perlmutter has been advising POTUS on veterans issues.
Bit of color now on the short ride over. POTUS emerged from the Oval at 4:5 pm, accompanied by VP Pence and Jared Kushner, as well as Kellyanne Conway. By 4:27 we were rolling, and about 3:10 seconds later we were stopping near the VA (On the way, we passed a Lexus, parked between the White House and Treasury, bearing the license plate "US FRVR.") In the VA conference room, your pooler spotted Senators Joni Ernst and Johnny Isakson. One gentleman in the crowd wore a dark "Bikers For Trump" t-shirt. Others wore VFW or American Legion gear. The crowd included veterans and representatives from veterans groups. Shulkin spoke first, at 4:38 pm, citing the progress on veterans' health care in the first 100 days. Pence spoke second at 4:43 pm, calling veterans issues a "truly unifying and bipartisan cause."
"My life did not take me on a pathway to wear the uniform of the United States, but I'm the son of a soldier, and I'm the proud father of a United States Marine," VPOTUS said. POTUS, Pence said, "cares so deeply" about veterans and the military.
Trump began speaking at 4:46 pm.
We have a travel photo lid.