Scott Brown is in the running to be the US secretary of veterans affairs, the former US senator said President-elect Donald Trump told him Friday.
“He said he’s making his highest recommendation to his committee that they consider me,” said Brown, who endorsed Trump shortly before the presidential primary in New Hampshire, where Brown ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2014. Trump won a runaway victory in the state.
Brown, a military veteran who won a stunning 2010 Senate victory in Massachusetts, said Trump called him on his cellphone during a flight back from Dallas, where Brown had attended a housing forum.
“He said, ‘How do you think you can help me?’ ” Brown said.
The former Republican state legislator pointed to two areas where he felt he has expertise: housing and veterans’ issues.
“He said, ‘What’s your passion?’ ” Brown recalled, saying that he replied, “Military service.”
“Quite honestly, it’s the toughest Cabinet position,” Brown said he told Trump, adding, “It transcends party.”
The president-elect’s transition team could not be reached for comment on Friday night.
During his campaign, Trump focused repeatedly on the plight of military veterans — and on the shortcomings of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA has been under scrutiny in recent years for a litany of scandals involving shoddy health care for returning veterans, delays in providing treatment, and other issues.
Trump vowed during his victory speech that his administration would “finally take care of our great veterans, who have been so loyal.”
In June, he pledged to fire or discipline VA officials who fail to adequately care for veterans and also called for an expansion of programs that allow veterans to choose their doctor and clinics, regardless of whether they are VA facilities or private medical centers, and still receive government-paid medical care.
Brown’s revelation Friday came as Trump Tower in Manhattan, where Trump has been staging his transition meetings, has been awash in speculation about top hires, opening policy initiatives, and the contours of a presidency many never saw coming.
Several of Trump’s initial hires have ignited criticism over their history of racially and ethnically divisive comments and positions.
Brown, who famously campaigned for Senate in a barn jacket and a truck, is unlikely to face such controversies.
He last ran in Massachusetts in 2012, when he lost the Senate seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
Brown said he had heard from a number of former Senate colleagues, who vote on Cabinet nominees.
“I’m hopeful that if it happens,” he said, “that I’ll get unanimous approval.”
Brown said Trump told him he’d be in touch next week.
He chuckled when reminded that Trump had said, at a Boston fund-raiser in June, that he would campaign in Massachusetts, which last voted for a GOP presidential candidate in 1984, if Brown advised him to.
“We never really followed up on that,” Brown said.
Attempts to reach aides to elected officials on both sides of the aisle for comment, including Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and Senators Kelly Ayotte and Warren, were unsuccessful Friday evening.
If nominated and confirmed, Brown would bring to the job an extensive military background.
He served more than 30 years in the National Guard, and requested in 2010 to serve his summer duty in Afghanistan during the August congressional recess. Brown was gone for two weeks, but he spent part of that time in predeployment training and traveling to and from Afghanistan.
He told reporters at Logan Airport when he returned that the soldiers he visited were worried about the pace of President Obama’s troop drawdown in Afghanistan. He spoke of the 116-degree heat as he ate with troops while dressed in full body armor.
Brown also wrote in his memoir of enduring a mortar attack while at Bagram Airfield near Kabul.
“Another blast came, this one maybe 700 or 800 meters away, close enough to glimpse the bright flash of light,” he wrote. “A bunch of us took off at a dead run toward a nearby bunker. Three hours later, my flight was in the sky.”