A private doctor and Mar-a-Lago member who turned his patronage of former President Trump into influence at the Department of Veterans Affairs also had contacts with multiple federal officials outside the VA, according to calendar records obtained by CREW. These records are the first indication that Dr. Bruce Moskowitz’s membership at the then-president’s private club provided him more access than previously known, and raise serious questions of just how much influence Trump’s customers were able to obtain.
Despite having no official government role, Dr. Moskowitz’s contacts included high-ranking officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the White House and possibly the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Moskowitz was a member of the “Mar-a-Lago crowd,” Trump customers who attracted scrutiny for their contacts with and influence over the VA early in Donald Trump’s presidency despite a complete lack of government service or specific expertise on the policies they were allowed to shape.
Calendar entries for then-CMS Administrator Seema Verma show that she had two calls scheduled with “Dr. Moskowitz.” That is almost certainly Bruce Moskowitz, based on the timing of the calls, then-VA Secretary David Shulkin’s inclusion in the second call, and searches of government employee directories and other sources for senior doctors with that last name. According to the entries, one call was with Dr. Moskowitz alone while the other included then-VA Secretary Shulkin, then-Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Initiatives Chris Liddell from the White House and someone identified as “Dr. Rucker.” This could refer to Dr. Donald Rucker, who at the time served as the national coordinator for health information technology within HHS and participated in a summit on a medical device registry that Dr. Moskowitz helped plan.
Calendar entry from December 1, 2017
Calendar entry from January 26, 2018
Calendar entry from January 29, 2018
The calendar entries do not reveal the subjects of the calls but according to ProPublica, Dr. Moskowitz pushed the VA to implement two initiatives that he or his son had previously advanced in the private sector, including the creation of a national registry of medical devices. According to the VA, the registry would be a collaboration between several agencies including the VA and CMS. The VA announced plans for the registry in June 2018 but it is not clear if it was ultimately created.
While Dr. Moskowitz’s influence at the VA has been well-documented, it is not clear whether his influence extended to the other agencies he communicated with. CREW only received calendar entries for Verma through May 31, 2018, though she worked at CMS until January 20, 2021. CREW has submitted additional Freedom of Information Act requests seeking the rest of Verma’s calendars as well as additional documents on Dr. Moskowitz’s dealings with CMS and HHS.
During Donald Trump’s presidency, his customers received unprecedented access to and influence over his administration, part of the thousands of conflicts of interest between his administration and his businesses. While Mar-a-Lago members’ dealings with the VA have been exposed in detail, it is clear that Dr. Moskowitz did not limit his attempts to influence policy to that agency alone. The public deserves to know just how much access Dr. Moskowitz’s patronage got him, and whether it paid off.