Trump's VA pick withdraws nomination
This morning, President Trump said Sen. Jon Tester, who led the congressional oversight on Dr. Ronny Jackson’s now-failed nomination to lead the VA, should have a “big price to pay in Montana.”
An official for the Tester campaign told CNN that the idea that the senator was going after Jackson to pick a fight with Trump is laughable and disagreed with Trump's comments.
“Jon’s focus from the beginning is making sure we have strong leadership at the top of the VA so our veterans are taken care of. Jon has worked with the president to get 8 bills signed into law on the VA,” the official noted. “That is his goal.”
“This isn’t political for him, it is about doing right by our veterans,” he said.
Jon Tester also released a statement following Jackson's announcement that he has withdrawn his nomination:
“I want to thank the servicemembers who bravely spoke out over the past week. It is my Constitutional responsibility to make sure the veterans of this nation get a strong, thoroughly vetted leader who will fight for them. The next Secretary must have a commitment to reform a strained health care system and a willingness to stand up to special interests who want to privatize the VA. My sleeves are rolled up and ready to work with Chairman Isakson to vet and confirm a Secretary who is fit to run the VA.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest government agencies, charged with taking care of about 20 million veterans.
Jackson's nomination was a major surprise, and many questioned whether or not he had the experience to run such a large department.
Speaking to Fox News this morning, President Trump acknowledged Jackson's lack of experience, but added that no one has that experience.
"Nobody has the experience" to run the VA, Trump said. "It's a big monster."
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta says Dr. Ronny Jackson, who works in both the medical field and with the military, must adhere to a higher level of accountability — and the allegations made against him could put his job as a White House doctor at risk.
"When you have multiple hats to wear — military hat, medical hat, like he does — there’s a lot more accountability that comes with that. The level of accountability here is obviously higher and I think it might throw his fate into question even as the white house doctor."
He continued: "If these things are true and there was dispensing of some of these controlled substances, not in a very ethical way, whatever it may be, that’s going to raise a lot of concern, obviously, for him to stay on even as the White House doctor."
Though he may no longer be Trump's nominee to lead the VA, Dr. Ronny Jackson still has a job.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said moments ago that he is at work today.
"Admiral Jackson is a doctor in the United States Navy assigned to the White House and is here at work today," she said.
President Trump says Sen. Jon Tester — who led the congressional oversight on Dr. Ronny Jackson’s now-failed nomination to lead the VA — should have a “big price to pay in Montana.”
Tester is up for re-election in a state the President won by more than 20 points in 2016. The senator was the most public critic of Jackson, including interviews with CNN and NPR.
“I think this is going to cause him a lot of problems in his state,” Trump said on Fox News Thursday morning.
Earlier this week, Tester said Jackson was known as "the candy man" inside the White House, citing reports from individuals who raised concerns about his nomination.
Dr. Ronny Jackson has faced multiple accusations of misconduct over the course of his career.
Democratic staff on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee released a document last night that included a list of allegations from the committee's conversations with nearly two dozen of Jackson's former and current colleagues made Jackson's chances at survival more uncertain.
Here's what those allegations are, according to the summary released by Senate Democrats, the contents of which remain under investigation by lawmakers and have not yet been substantiated:
- Jackson was allegedly "abusive" to his colleagues.
- He reportedly loosely handled prescription pain medications
- Jackson was allegedly periodically intoxicated, even once wrecking a government vehicle while drunk.
President Trump, speaking to Fox News this morning after Ronny Jackson's withdrawal, said he has another person in mind for the top job at Veterans Affairs.
Though he didn't go into detail, Trump said his next candidate is someone with “political capability.”
He did not expand on who that person may be.
President Trump called into Fox News this morning and said he was not surprised that Jackson withdrew.
"I even told him a day or two ago I saw where this was going," Trump said.
Now that Dr. Ronny Jackson has withdrawn his nomination, the White House have has big problem on their hands: who to replace him with.
Several officials tell CNN there is no plan B. The reason David Shulkin lasted for so long when he was on the verge of being fired was because the White House couldn’t settle on a suitable replacement, until President Trump picked the White House physician on a whim.
Several names were floated previously — Pete Hegseth, Rick Perry — but there is no obvious choice here.
They are right back where they started, one official says.