President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would understand if Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, his White House physician, bowed out of consideration to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
‘I really don’t think, personally, he should do it, but it’s … totally his decision,’ Trump said during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
‘The fact is, I wouldn’t do it,’ he said, recounting his advice to the Navy doctor who also tended to the medical needs of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
‘I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren’t thinking nicely about our country?’
Trump added, however that he ‘would definitely stand behind him’ if he decided to press forward despite political headwinds related to allegations of professional misconduct.
President Donald Trump (right) appeared in a joint press conference Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying that he had advised Dr. Ronny Jackson, his Navy physician, that he didn’t have to press ahead with confirmation hearings to lead the Veterans Affairs Department
Confirmation hearings for Admiral Jackson, the President’s personal doctor, were delayed while senators investigated if the damning claims were true and could wreck his chances
‘He’s a fine man. I’ll always stand behind him,’ the president declared, while insisting: ‘I’d let it be his choice.’
The reporter who asked Trump about his nominee didn’t mention the specifics of Jackson’s difficult position, which involves accusations that he consumed alcohol on the job, over-prescribed medications and presided over a hostile work environment.
Trump, too, said: ‘I haven’t heard of the particular allegations.’
But he said he had advised Jackson to avoid sailing toward the partisan shoals of Capitol Hill and stay where he is.
‘I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago, I said, “What do you need this for? This is a vicious group of people that malign”,’ he recalled. ‘And they do, and I lived through it.’
Trump claimed Jackson became the latest political target in Democrats’ sights because they have been unable to derail CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s transition to lead the State Department.
‘They failed to stop him, so now they say, “Who’s next? Who’s next?”‘ Trump vented.
Trump’s doctor and nominee for VA secretary Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is accused of drinking on the job, improperly prescribing medicine and creating a hostile work environment
‘I don’t want to put a man through, who’s not a political person, I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,’ he added. ‘It’s too ugly and too disgusting.’
Jackson’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, had been scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed indefinitely on Tuesday morning.
He told NBC News on Capitol Hill that he ‘was looking forward to the hearing tomorrow. Kind of disappointed that it’s been postponed, but I’m looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering everybody’s questions.’
‘We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,’ said the chairman, Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson and the ranking Democrat, Montana Sen. Jon Tester.
‘We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review.’
As of Tuesday no evidence has been made public to support the allegations against Jackson. The New York Times and CBS News have both reported the claims without disclosing who made them.
South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds, who sits on the committee, said Monday night on the Fox News Channel that Isakson had relayed to members that there were ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ that required a hearing delay.
The naval officer was to replace the scandal-plagued David Shulkin, who Trump fired last month. CBS reported that multiple people have accused Jackson of ‘excessive drinking on the job and improperly dispensing medicine.’
He ‘created a hostile working environment’ to such a degree that if the allegations were proved true ‘it’ll sink his nomination’, the network’s sources said.
The White House didn’t deny the allegations in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
‘Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country. He’s served as the physician to three Presidents – Republican and Democrat – and been praised by them all,’ Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said.
‘Admiral Jackson’s record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what’s needed at the V.A. to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve.’
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee members said they were trying to determine if the accusations had ‘factual basis’ before a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
‘We need to be asking questions and there need to be answers,’ Senator Richard Blumenthal told CNN.
‘At this point we are dealing with some fairly raw allegations and we need to know if there is factual support for it.’
When Senator Jon Tester, the committee’s top Democrat, was asked if the allegations were troubling, he replied ‘only if true’, adding that vetting was ‘all hands on deck.’
Senator Jon Tester (right), the committee’s top Democrat, was asked if the allegations were troubling and replied ‘only if true’, adding that vetting was ‘all hands on deck’
Admiral Jackson is best known for his glowing review of President Trump’s health (pictured) after his first physical in January, which was met with intense sceptcism
Senators from both parties were already concerned that Admiral Jackson lacked the management experience to run the second-biggest government agency.
The military doctor is best known for his glowing review of President Trump’s health after his first physical in January, which was met with intense skepticism.
Admiral Jackson declared he was in ‘excellent health’ but should improve his diet and exercise as he weighed 239 lbs. with a Body-Mass Index of 29.9.
‘He has a lot of energy and a lot of stamina,’ he said, claiming President Trump could live to be 200 if he improved his health.
The doctor also made the bizarre claim that ‘he has incredibly good genes; it’s just the way God made him.’
Admiral Jackson also tried to quash fears that President Trump could be developing dementia, saying he had ‘no cognitive, mental issues whatsoever. He is very sharp.’
Admiral Jackson is best known for his glowing review of President Trump’s health after his first physical in January, which was met with intense sceptcism
Veterans Affairs has an annual budget of $180 billion and more than 370,000 staff to handle veterans’ medical care, benefits, and burials and memorials.
Senators said he ‘has some issues with management’ and ‘hasn’t really overseen a large group’ before, which concerned them.
‘He doesn’t have the experience you’d think would traditionally be required at the VA,’ Senator Jerry Moran told The Hill.
President Trump’s own advisers were surprised by the nomination, and chief of staff John Kelly though it was unwise to tap him so quickly without proper vetting.
The White House has aggressively defended Admiral Jackson since then, pointing out his military service and Navy SEAL son.
‘Members of Congress who have never managed a thing outside of their own congressional office have the audacity to say he’s not qualified before he even has a hearing,’ White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said.