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Why is a Trump official charging taxpayers thousands for a 'girls’ night'? | Trump administration

They say money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a really expensive girls’ night – which is exactly what Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, has been spending on – and charging the taxpayer for it too.

In 2018, Verma spent $2,933 organizing a “girls’ night” at a reporter’s house and charged it to expenses, according to a 17-month investigation conducted by congressional Democrats.

Maybe the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) needed a little self-care, after all, the backlash she got for making it harder for poor Americans to access healthcare can’t be good for one’s complexion (which could explain this $345 moisturizer that Verma charged taxpayers for in 2018).

But that’s just the problem: Verma has been in the spotlight for her expenses for a while – last year she also came under fire for expensing $50,000 for luggage she lost on a three-day trip. Then again, considering that practically the entire Trump family, including the president himself, have made a habit of expensing random stuff to the American taxpayer (remember Donald Trump Jr’s $76,000 Mongolian shooting trip?) perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising (heck, a $3,000 party seems paltry in comparison).

But that’s not all that she spent. In fact, the congressional inquiry has revealed that Verma has spent more than $3.5m in expenses, spent at times improperly, to pay for consultants who helped her to pitch op-eds and wrote her Twitter posts. Her other expenses include a $977 consultancy fee, paid to a consultant who helped her to get an op-ed about Obamacare on the Fox News website; and over $13,000 on consultants who spent months helping her to win awards.

Verma has rejected the idea that her expenses have been improper: she told a House committee in October 2019 that “all the contracts we have at CMS are based on promoting the work of CMS” and her expensing habits were “consistent with how the agency has used resources in the past”.

Plus, she seems like a nice person. Verma’s father once described her as having sympathy for the poor because she used to pull over and give cash to the same homeless man on her way to work every morning – something he said he was “amazed” by. Let’s just hope she wasn’t expensing that too.

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