Update 12:21 p.m.: Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Wednesday he hadn’t been asked to serve as secretary of veterans affairs.
“I am energy secretary from now until the foreseeable future. Happily,” Perry told the American-Statesman.
Asked about reports that President Donald Trump was poised to tap him for the veterans affairs post, Perry said: “I am never surprised by fake news.”
Earlier: President Donald Trump is reportedly considering naming Energy Secretary Rick Perry to replace David Shulkin as secretary of veterans affairs.
The New York Times, the Associated Press and CNN all cited anonymous sources as confirming the possibility hours after the president, via Twitter, announced that he was firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed him as part of what he later in the day said was a move to get the Cabinet he wanted.
Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration, has been on shaky ground at an agency embroiled in intense bureaucratic infighting and amid an investigation by the VA inspector general into the possible misuse of travel funds on a trip to Europe that was allegedly more personal than business.
Perry, who joined the United States Air Force in 1972 and was discharged in 1977 with the rank of captain, had expressed interest in serving as secretary of veterans affairs before the president named him to lead the Energy Department.
Trump hosted Perry at the White House for lunch Monday following a White House reception for the World Champion Houston Astros, but made no formal job offer, according to the news reports.
But, at the reception for the Astros, Trump while thanking Perry, added, “We love Rick, right? Did I do the right job with Rick? I think we did the right job.”
Perry is due to appear before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday morning along with four other Cabinet secretaries to testify about infrastructure. He is still listed as a witness on the committee’s website.
Bill Miller, an Austin consultant who has known the former Texas governor for years, said that he didn’t know if the report was correct.
“With Trump, anything’s possible,” Miller said. “And Perry does have an affinity for the military and veterans. It makes sense on the face of it.”
Perry dedicated his brief reality television career on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” to veterans and raising awareness about their needs.
His long-time former spokesman and former chief of staff Ray Sullivan said, “I would expect that Secretary Perry knows he serves at the pleasure of the president, just as Perry’s appointees served at the pleasure of the governor.”
Sullivan added, “Personally, I think that stability is a benefit and Perry’s done very well at furthering the president’s energy vision. It would be great to continue.”
Even though the energy post is a plum assignment compared to the scandal-plagued VA, the White House has been looking for a quick way to replace Shulkin. A recent Washington Post report described a bunker mentality there and said that a guard was placed outside his office — to protect him from his staff.