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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) secretary to resign following a watchdog report that he belittled a congressional aide after she filed a sexual assault claim. 

Navy Reserve officer and Hill staffer Andrea Goldstein, reported that a hospital contractor “bumped his entire body against mine and told me ‘I looked like I needed a smile and a good time,’” in September 2019 at the Washington Veterans Medical Center (VAMC).

The 68-page report from the VA’s Office of Inspector General illustrated that Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to discredit Goldstein by alleging she was a serial complainer attempting to disparage the VA. The contractor was not charged, in part due to the lack of witnesses or security footage of the incident.

“The VA Inspector General report makes clear that Secretary Wilkie engaged in an extremely disturbing cover-up campaign of sexual assault against a veteran,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. 

“Secretary Wilkie has not only been derelict in his duty to combat sexual harassment, but has been complicit in the continuation of a VA culture that tolerates this epidemic. He has lost the trust and confidence to serve, and he must immediately resign.”  

“This case and the misconduct that followed are part of a broader, well-documented crisis of violence against women who serve. It is a profound injustice that any patriot with the courage to defend our nation has had to experience having their voices silenced and their integrity questioned,” she continued.

Wilkie responded to the findings Friday with a statement.

“After nearly a year of investigation, interviews with 65 people and analysis of nearly 1.5 million documents, VA’s inspector general cannot substantiate that I sought to investigate or asked others to investigate the Veteran. That’s because these allegations are false. What’s more, the IG could not identify a single instance in which any VA employee violated any rule, regulation or policy. If it had, it would have issued recommendations, which it did not.”

The VA secretary also reportedly said in an email that Goldstein was just a pawn in a broader Democrat plan to create “a spectacle.”

Inspector General Michael Missal, who oversaw the initial investigation, pushed back on the secretary’s “poor choice of words.”

“Neither I nor my staff told you or anyone else at the Department that the allegations were unsubstantiated,” he wrote. “Reaching a decision to close the investigation with no criminal charges does not mean the underlying allegation is unsubstantiated.”

Goldstein was an aide to Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and he too called for Wilkie’s resignation. 

“The incidents detailed in today’s OIG report were not fabricated or dreamt up as political stunts, and in early 2019, VA’s own research found that at least 1 in 4 women veterans experience sexual or gender harassment at VA,” Takano said in a statement Thursday.

“Instead of working with me to address an underlying problem at the DC VAMC from the start, Secretary Wilkie and the senior-most officials at VA went out of their way to raise suspicions and cast speculation and doubt about Andrea and the legitimacy of the whole incident,” the congressmen added.

Goldstein also spoke out Thursday in a statement that called Wilkie’s actions “horrifyingly familiar” for victims of sexual assault.

“In this shocking abuse of power, Secretary Wilkie publically revictimized the very people that the agency that he leads is supposed to serve,” Goldstein said.

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