President Trump reportedly passed along a handwritten policy pitch from a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to then-Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin, according to a ProPublica report Wednesday.
The note was penned by Trump’s friend Albert Hazzouri, a cosmetic dentist in Scranton, Penn., on Mar-a-Lago stationery after the two saw each other in late 2017.
The letter, which was obtained by ProPublica, is addressed “Dear King” and appears to propose the government pay for more dental care for veterans.
It reportedly was sent on behalf of the American Dental Association (ADA), though ProPublica noted that details of the pitch were murky.
Scrawled at the top of Hazzouri’s note is a message from the president, written in black marker, ProPublica reported.
It says “Send to David S at the V.A.,” referring to Shulkin.
A Trump aide stamped “The president has seen” on the note as well.
The White House and the ADA did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Hill.
The proposal did not advance, according to ProPublica. Shulkin, who was fired in March 2018, told the publication that he does not recall receiving the message. Hazzouri said neither he nor the ADA ever met with the agency.
Hazzouri told the outlet that he had only a vague idea of the proposal he was vouching for on behalf of the ADA, noting that he passed along the note as a favor to the organization.
“I’m really not involved in any politics. I’m just a small-time dentist,” he said. “I guess there’s a lot of money spent on veterans’ care and American Native Indians’ care, and I guess they wanted to have a little hand in it, the American Dental Association, to try to guide what’s going on or whatever.”
A spokeswoman for the ADA declined to elaborate on the reported pitch to the president by Hazzouri, according to ProPublica.
Michael Graham, who leads the ADA’s lobbying arm in Washington, told ProPublica that one of his staffers had raised the topic with Hazzouri.
“The ADA has been looking into how we can get involved in veterans’ issues,” Graham said. “Lots of vets may not be eligible but need care.”
Hazzouri received a shoutout from Trump during a campaign event in 2016, according to ProPublica.
“Stand up, Albert. Where the hell are you, Albert? Stand up, Albert. He’s a good golfer, but I’m actually a better golfer than him. Right?” Trump said.
Addressing the president as “King” was an inside joke with Trump from before the New York business mogul became president, Hazzouri said.
“I call other people King,” he explained. “It’s a very personal thing.”
This is not the first time a Mar-a-Lago club member has appeared to influence the Trump administration, according to ProPublica.
Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last month reportedly opened an investigation into whether three associates of Trump, including a Mar-a-Lago club member, influenced hiring decisions at the VA.