President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, announced he has withdrawn his nomination amid allegations of workplace misconduct and prescription mispractice. The withdrawal of Jackson followed a decision by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to indefinitely postpone his confirmation hearing.
Tester and committee chairman Johnny Isackson (R-Ga.) jointly announced the postponement of Jackson’s hearing and sent a letter to the administration asking for “any and all communications” between the White House and Defense Department about “allegations” on Jackson from 2006 to the present.
Jackson, who is a rear admiral in the Navy, currently serves as White House physician, a position he has held for both President Obama and President George W. Bush, made the decision to withdraw his nomination precipitated by allegations from Senator Jon Tester (MT-D) his prescription-drug practices and use of alcohol. Among the allegations, Jackson was accused of getting drunk and wrecking a government vehicle after a Secret Service going-away party.
Meanwhile, Tester is considered the top Democrat on the Republican-controlled Senate Veteran Affairs Committee. He is currently seeking re-election for a third Senatorial term in the state of Montana – a state that President Trump won during the 2016 presidential election with 56% of the vote.
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President Trump took to social media, calling for Tester’s resignation after the president revealed a White House report disputed the allegations made against Jackson. He tweeted: “Allegations made by Senator Jon Tester against Admiral/Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false,” Trump said over two tweets. “The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phony Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign
In a second and subsequent tweet – “The great people of Montana will not stand for this kind of slander when talking of a great human being. Admiral Jackson is the kind of man that those in Montana would most respect and admire, and now, for no reason whatsoever, his reputation has been shattered. Not fair, Tester
Tester responded to President Trump tweets with a statement of his own. Tester tweeted: “It’s my duty to make sure Montana veterans get what they need and have earned, and I’ll never stop fighting for them as their senatorPresident Trump responded to Tester’s rebuttal, tweeting: “Secret Service has just informed me that Senator Jon Tester’s statements on Admiral Jackson are not true. There were no such findings. A horrible thing that we in D.C. must live with, just like phony Russian Collusion. Tester should lose race in Montana. Very dishonest and sick.
Committee member Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH-D) stated of the report in question on Jackson’s conduct that the number of people who came forward with the allegations against Jackson detailed in the memo was in the double digits. Jackson also allegedly wrote himself prescriptions and handed out drugs without prescriptions, including providing a “large supply” of the opioid painkiller Percocet to a White House military office staff member. The memo also accuses Jackson of drinking on the job, and on one occasion “could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room.” The report also spoke of an incident where Jackson allegedly “got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle” at a Secret Service going-away party.
Directly following the release of the memo, Jackson denied the allegations including wrecking a car and insisted his nomination would proceed as planned. The White House disputed the accusations stating records including police reports show Jackson was involved in three minor vehicle accidents in government vehicles in the past five years. None of the accidents in question involved the use of alcohol nor was he found to be at fault in any of the accidents in question.
According to the White House report, one accident involved a side-view mirror clipped by a passing truck, another involved a road rage incident in Montgomery County, Maryland. The enraged driver punched out Jackson’s window during a morning driver to Camp David. Additionally, the White House medical unit Jackson was responsible for running found he successfully passed regular controlled substance audits, according to the records for the last three years
The review did recommend improvements to the handling of the medical unit’s handling of controlled substances. However, there was no misconduct found or cited on the part of Jackson.
Fox News further reports of the accusations leveled against Jackson and the White House’s defense of Jackson reporting –
“The Associated Press reviewed the documents Friday. They were the result of an internal White House review of allegations raised against Jackson during his brief confirmation process. The White House said the records, covering recent years, disprove the allegations.
Tester’s office has not specified the time frame during which the alleged misconduct occurred. The senator’s spokeswoman Marnee Banks said the office would not comment until it knew more about the White House records.
Separately, the Secret Service said it has no evidence to support an allegation that its personnel intervened to prevent Jackson from disturbing former President Barack Obama during a foreign trip in 2015.
In a statement dated Thursday, the Secret Service said it had conducted a “thorough review” of internal documents related to Obama’s foreign trips in 2015 and interviewed people who were present. The agency said it has found “no information that would indicate the allegation is accurate” and no record of any incident involving Jackson
CNN had reported allegations that Jackson drunkenly banged on the hotel room door of a female employee and that Secret Service personnel intervened out of concern that he would wake Obama.
Jackson has denied the accusations, calling them “baseless and anonymous attacks” on his character and integrity that are “completely false and fabricated.”
Asked about the situation at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump called the Jackson situation ‘an absolute disgrace.’
‘These were false accusations about a great man; about a man who has a son who’s a top student at Annapolis; about a man that’s given his life to this country, and to the military — a brave man. He would have been a great leader,’ Trump complained, noting that he, Obama and former President George W. Bush had all praised the doctor’s conduct in the past.
Trump said he’d called Jackson earlier Friday and told him that he was “an American hero” because he’d ‘exposed the system for some horrible things.