The chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee refused Monday to agree with President Donald Trump’s criticism of the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, nor the President’s call for the Montana Democrat to resign in the wake of the Dr. Ronny Jackson scandal.
“I’m not in the critiquing business,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, told reporters in the Capitol after overseeing a short pro-forma session of the Senate, which is otherwise recessed.
In fact, Isakson defended Tester’s decision to publicly release the allegations against Jackson, saying that “every senator has the right to exercise their options” and “that’s the way it should be.”
Isakson said that since Jackson had withdrawn his nomination to be veterans affairs secretary, the committee is no longer investigating allegations about the White House doctor and problems at the White House Medical Office. Asked if he thought they were true, Isakson pointed to a letter he and Tester sent to the White House last week seeking information about the charges and noted that the White House never responded to it.
“We never got that response back, and that’s why we didn’t have the hearing,” Isakson said.
Trump called over the weekend for Tester to resign over his opposition to Jackson’s nomination. Jackson withdrew from consideration late last week, following a series of allegations related to his professional conduct.
“Allegations made by Senator Jon Tester against Admiral/Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false,” Trump wrote in a pair of 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. 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 said in a statement responding to Trump over the weekend that “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 senator.”
Asked if he knew who he would like Trump to pick now to run the VA, Isakson told CNN, “No, but I’m sure we’ll find a good one. Now more than ever it’s important to do.”
CNN’s Matt Korade and Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.