Next (9News) with Kyle Clark, Mike Coffman, March 28, 2018

Station:   KUSA, Channel 9 (Denver)

Guests:    Coffman, Mike


Date:        March 28, 2018

Topics:     Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Over Budget, Behind Schedule, Construction Management Authority, Aurora VA Hospital, Army Corps of Engineers, Trump Administration, Privatization of VA, Conservative Veterans of America, Community Providers, Admiral Jackson, White House Physician, Navy Medical Corps, Marine Corps Bias, Senior Level of Leadership, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Churn and Chaos, General Mattis, National Security Advisor, National Security, Foreign Policy, John Bolton, Secretary of Defense,


HOST KYLE CLARK: [00:00:01] Congressman Mike Coffman of Aurora, [the] first member of Congress of our knowledge to call for the firing of the V.A. secretary. It happened today. Why did he have to go?

U.S.RERPRESENTATIVE OF COLORADO’S SIXTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, MIKE COFFMAN: [00:00:11] Well he was — he came from inside the organization. He really reflected, unfortunately, the problems of the organization, did nothing to clean up the bureaucratic incompetence of that organization, to the to the point that I caught him trying to — not only did he not fire the individual in charge of of construction management at the V.A. that was responsible for this project that was a billion dollars over budget, five years behind schedule — our hospital here — but tried to promote her to make are in charge of all of construction and acquisition for the Department of Veterans Affairs, somebody who is completely incompetent. He literally fired no one at the top, where there needs to be a housecleaning. I believe fundamentally that only somebody from outside the V.A. can ultimately clean up the V.A..

CLARK: [00:01:03] What could the incoming V.A. Secretary do, practically, to improve the situation on the ground at the Aurora V.A. hospital?

COFFMAN: [00:01:10] Well, I think we — I led the fight, there, to strip the VA of its construction management authority and replace [it with] the Army Corps of Engineers on that site. So, they’re finishing up right now — the construction part of it. They will revert to the V.A. to put in all the medical equipment to make it operational. So, we did get them thrown off the project — but it was pretty late in the project — and permanently stripped them of their construction management authority, [and their ability to] ever to build another hospital again.

CLARK: [00:01:41] Some of the most prominent critics of the outgoing V.A. secretary is this Conservative Veterans of America that wants to privatize a lot of VA care. Should we take it that that’s where the Trump administration wants to go with the V.A.?

COFFMAN: [00:01:54] Well, I think the reality is that that’s not the direction that Congress will support. I think that certainly we’ll have two systems. We’ll have the V.A. system, and we’ll also have community providers that are able to augment the V.A. as part of the care for our veterans.

CLARK: [00:02:13] I’m curious what you think of the incoming V.A. secretary — or the nominee, rather — Admiral Jackson, the White House physician. President Trump clearly likes him. A lot of folks in the Obama administration like him. But you didn’t have a ton of reference on him.

COFFMAN: [00:02:27] No, I don’t. I think we have to look back at, you know, what his command experience was in the Navy Medical Corps. He needs to be Marine Corps tough when it comes to cleaning up the Department of Veterans Affairs — not to reflect my Marine Corps bias! But he’s got to be tough. And he’s got to clean up that senior level of leadership, where you have report after report, year after year of dysfunction in the V.A., with the V.A. saying they’re going to take care of it. [It] never happens year after year after year. Those people, in charge, need to find something else to do. And he needs to be tough enough to say, “You’re fired!”. And that didn’t happen with the last secretary. It needs to happen with this secretary. And I’ll be watching very closely.

CLARK: [00:03:20] Last question for you: when it comes to the rapid turnover at the top of the Trump administration –. We looked back to the Carter administration. Same set of two dozen positions. Two people turned over under Carter. Less than five under Reagan, and under Bush I. And then, here you have 11 positions that have turned over and a shorter amount of time in the Trump administration. [Are you] concerned about the chaos and the churn?

COFFMAN: [00:03:41] I think it’s settling down, now. I think it’s stemmed from the fact that you have a President with no political experience, no experience in government, coming into the highest position in the United States. And so he took — it took him some time, I think, to get his feet on the ground. And he went through a lot of turnover in that process. Plus, I’m sure he’s not the easiest president to work with, from a staff point of view. I think he has a very good team assembled now, particularly from the standpoint of national security and foreign policy. But I think it took him a while to get there.

CLARK: [00:04:14] And so, just to clarify that, because I don’t think we’ve talked since this discussion happened. [Do] you support the idea of former Ambassador Bolton at National Security [Administration]?

COFFMAN: [00:04:23] You know, I do. I think that, certainly, he’ll be balanced. I think, to me, the leader that will [lead on] national security and foreign policy [issues] will remain. General Mattis, Secretary of Defense, I think will take the lead on it. And he’s very well respected by the President. I think that the National Security Advisor is an important role. I think Mike Pompeo is going to be great as Secretary of State. I think Tillerson — I like Tillerson. He worked well with General Mattis, in terms of State and Defense. But, I think the fact is he didn’t have the ear of the President. And when foreign leaders know that he doesn’t have the ear of the President, then they don’t listen to him. And so, I think with Mike Pompeo there, I think that’s a positive. I think he’ll lend–. Obviously, he has a certain ideological perspective. Certainly, he’s very conservative. But I think [with] the balance of all those players there in place, he’ll fit in very well.

CLARK: [00:05:19] Sounds to me like you’re a bit more enthused about the rest of the team than Bolton, that you’re counting on the rest of them to kind of temper his more interventionist ideologies and so forth. Is that fair to say?

COFFMAN: [00:05:31] I think that — I think the President finally has a team that he will listen to. I don’t think he had a team before that he that he trusted. And it’s hard to earn the President’s trust. I think this is a team that he trusted. And I do think that he’ll hear the different voices and make a decision.

CLARK: [00:05:49] Congressman Coffman, thanks for your time, as always.

COFFMAN: [00:05:50] Thank you for having me.