Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw has been hit with an ethics complaint by a government watchdog after reports surfaced that he, alongside Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, participated in a smear campaign against a female veteran who filed a sexual harassment allegation against a VA contractor.
The complaint, which was obtained exclusively by Salon late Wednesday night, was “filed by the Campaign for Accountability (CfA)” and “draws on a recent report from the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) describing efforts at the highest levels of the agency to undermine the department’s probe into a woman’s allegation that a contractor had assaulted her in a VA hospital,” Salon‘s Robert Sollenberger reported.
Wilkie allegedly made degrading remarks about Andrea Goldstein, a former Navy veteran and staffer for Representative Mike Takano (D-CA), the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in an email exchange following a conversation he had with Crenshaw.
Goldstein alleged in 2019 that a VA contractor had “bumped his entire body against mine and told me I looked like I needed a smile and a good time” in a VA hospital waiting room.
“Ask me in the morning what Congressman Crenshaw said about the Takano staffer whose glamor (sic) shot was in the New York Times,” Wilkie wrote in the email involving Crenshaw.
The OIG stated in its findings that “the tone set by Secretary Wilkie was at minimum unprofessional and at worst provided the basis for senior officials to put out information to national reporters to question the credibility and background of the veteran who filed the sexual assault complaint.”
Wilkie’s actions, OIG added, “appear to undermine VA’s stated goals of providing a safe and welcoming environment for all veterans and to treat complainants of sexual assault with respect.”
Crenshaw, meanwhile, had allegedly told Wilkie that Goldstein had a habit of filing false reports, which Goldstein and her attorney deny. Crenshaw and his office “refused to cooperate with investigators,” reported Sollenberger.
The secretary denied all accusations against him, but despite the fact that the OIG found his testimony ‘incomplete or incorrect,’ investigators could not clear up the contradictions because Wilkie declined a follow-up interview, and others — including Crenshaw — would not cooperate. While the OIG could not prove wrongdoing, the report concluded that the Secretary and senior officials showed ‘a lack of genuine commitment’ that jeopardized a ‘safe and welcoming environment’ for victims of sexual assault.
According to Salon‘s reporting, Wilkie insisted to investigators that Crenshaw had only mentioned Goldstein because they had served together in the military, however, records show that one VA official told said that Crenshaw “might have said something to the fact that [Goldstein] made allegations in the military,” which goes against OIG’s rules.
On Monday, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) called upon the House Ethics Committee to open its own investigation into Crenshaw’s role in the matter.
“Rep. Crenshaw’s alleged involvement is abhorrent. If true, Rep. Crenshaw fed false information to Sec. Wilkie in order to help vilify a victim & impugn her character,” Speier tweeted. “The Ethics Committee must launch an investigation into these claims.”
Rep. Crenshaw's alleged involvement is abhorrent. If true, Rep Crenshaw fed false information to Sec Wilkie in order to help vilify a victim & impugn her character. The Ethics Committee must launch an investigation into these claims.
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) December 14, 2020
Thirty-four days until the inauguration.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.