Democrats Call On Department of Justice To Investigate Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary For Perjury
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN), sent the following letter to Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to immediately investigate Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke for false or misleading statements made before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on June 26, 2018 and July 17, 2018. Ranking Member Walz was joined by Representatives Mark Takano (D-CA) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY) in sending the letter.
The text of the letter is available below:
The Honorable Jefferson Sessions
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Sessions,
We refer Mr. Peter O’Rourke, Acting Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), for investigation of alleged perjury, misleading or withholding information from Congress, or making otherwise unlawful statements in testimony and communications before the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on June 26, 2018 and July 17, 2018. The alleged statements were made during two oversight hearings in response to questions regarding the withholding of access to information and a database from the VA Office of the Inspector General (VA OIG), and the status and disposition of a VA whistleblower complaint.
Notably, in every invitation to testify at Committee oversight hearings, all witnesses, including those representing VA, are reminded that the testimony they will provide will be subject to sections 1001, 1505, and 1621 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Relevant excerpts of Mr. O’Rourke’s testimony are attached to this letter.
On June 26, 2018 and July 17, 2018, when questioned about whether VA had restricted access to its Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) documents and database, Mr. O’Rourke stated, “…[W]e provided documents all through this period of time. So it is not like they have been refused things. We provide disclosures to them on a daily basis as soon as they come in.” He also testified, “…[W]e have provided them disclosures consistently.”
According to VA OIG, OAWP was not in daily contact, and VA OIG received less than 20 referrals from OAWP in approximately 8 months. Additionally, Mr. O’Rourke’s statements on June 26 were contradicted by two letters VA OIG sent to VA Office of General Counsel (OGC) on June 28, 2018 and July 10, 2018 requesting access to the OAWP information and its database that would not have been necessary if OAWP had not withheld information from VA OIG.
When questioned again about access to the OAWP database and information in a hearing on July 17, 2018, Mr. O’Rourke testified, “[IG’s] access to OAWP has been unfettered since day one.” Letters exchanged between VA OIG and Mr. O’Rourke, letters from VA OIG to OGC, and notifications from VA OIG to Congress—including notification that it had been granted OAWP database access the morning of the July 17 hearing after 8 months of VA stonewalling—contradict this statement and provide evidence that Mr. O’Rourke’s statement that VA OIG had “unfettered access since day one” is false.
On July 17, 2018, when questioned about the status of a whistleblower complaint made by Dr. Dale Klein, a VA employee, Mr. O’Rourke was dismissive of Dr. Klein’s case, stating:
“His case, in particular, has been reviewed by OSC…[W]e didn't have the chance to investigate it because it wasn't even in our hands. But I believe that case resolved with him being removed and the Office of Special Counsel supporting that decision.”
Emails provided to the Committee from Dr. Klein to Mr. O’Rourke demonstrate OAWP had received Dr. Klein’s complaint. VA had been involved in Dr. Klein’s case as it has yet to be resolved. Furthermore, the Office of Special Counsel has not made any findings or recommendations regarding Dr. Klein’s case, nor would it have the authority to support a decision that must ultimately be made by the VA Secretary. This inaccurate and misleading statement is another example in which Mr. O’Rourke has been less than forthcoming with Congress.
As such, we request that you open an investigation to determine whether Mr. O’Rourke made unlawful statements (perjury or otherwise) in providing false testimony in the two subject hearings. If you determine that Mr. O’Rourke did in fact make an unlawful statement, or that others conspired with, instructed, or encouraged him to do the same, we request that you pursue immediate prosecution.
If you have any questions, please contact Ms. Grace Rodden, Minority Staff Director, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, at (202) 225-9756 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice Ranking Member