Looks like Donald Trump will need to go back to the drawing board to fill the top spot at the Veterans Administration. Late last night, word began to leak that Admiral Ronny Jackson had begun considering a retreat after getting hammered with a laundry list of allegations ranging from “questionable record-keeping to felony DUI, and several points in between. By this morning, Jackson had decided he’d had enough, lashing out at the accusations that suddenly arose after more than a decade serving in the White House:
Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.
The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years.
In my role as a doctor, I have tirelessly worked to provide excellent care for all my patients. In doing so, I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards.
Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing – how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes.
While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The catalyst for Jackson’s withdrawal was a two-page list of allegations that Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee released last night. According to ranking member Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), each of the allegations had at least two witnesses. The allegations range from”questionable record keeping for pharmaceuticals” to crashing a government vehicle while drunk.
Jackson flatly denied ever having wrecked a government vehicle under any circumstances, and some of the other allegations seem either threadbare or curious at best. For instance, one bullet item notes that “Jackson has been lucky because his prescribing practices are reckless,” but offers nothing to substantiate that charge. A more specific allegation states that Jackson was so intoxicated that “he could not be reached because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room.” The Washington Post calls that allegation into question:
The Post was unable to confirm the report’s description that Jackson was once “passed out drunk in his hotel room” when a White House official needed medical attention. One individual told The Post about a similar scenario, in which Jackson was unresponsive to loud knocking on the door by Secret Service and medical staff trying to find him. It turned out that Jackson was sleeping inside, but this individual did not know if he had been drinking.
Imagine that — someone sleeping inside a hotel room! Much of what’s on this list of allegations sounds more like gossip than substance, and it’s not tough to see how the incident as posited by the Post could turn into an item of gossip. How could he not get awoken by that pounding on the door? Oh, he must have been drunk.
One unnamed White House official asks a rather pertinent question:
Trump has not signaled that he wants his nominee to drop out, according to a senior administration official. That official, and another former senior administration official, said they had seen Jackson more than 100 times in the White House. “He has never seemed drunk, never seemed like he wasn’t anything but ready to do his job,” the former official said.
The current official said the White House plans to have current and former colleagues support Jackson in upcoming days and wants to document some of his heroic work as a military doctor. The official said, however, that Jackson was growing weary of the accusations. “His tolerance is not indefinite.”
“He is telling us these things are just not true,” the first official said. “Why hasn’t all this come out before? Why is this coming out now?”
Good question. It seems very difficult to believe that Jackson could have been running roughshod and drunk during his twelve years in the White House, a martini in one hand while tossing pills around the cubicles with the other, while advancing to flag rank and satisfying George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. You can’t get by with “kiss up, kick down” tactics (another “allegation” on the list) while wrecking government cars and being too drunk to do your duty at that level — not for six months, and certainly not for twelve years. Besides, if even a small portion of this is true, wouldn’t that be a massive condemnation of Obama’s judgment, since most of Jackson’s time was spent under Obama’s watch? How did all of this get missed until the nick of time before Jackson was in line to take over the VA?
Maybe it’s all true, but the timing on this looks incredibly suspicious. It has all the hallmarks of a character assassination. Even if Jackson was a bad choice for the VA — and he’s certainly a puzzling choice — this reflects much more on the Veterans Affairs committee minority and Tester as its leader than it does on Jackson.
Update: Er, how will this work out?
Admiral Ronny Jackson is a man of exceptional integrity, character and intellect. We are grateful for his long and distinguished service to our Nation and look forward to continuing to see his warm smile each day at the White House!
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) April 26, 2018
That would certainly put Tester and his colleagues in a vise, wouldn’t it? They don’t have any control over Jackson’s assignment at the White House as it isn’t a Senate-confirmed position. If these allegations are true, though, they’d have to raise a stink about his continued access to the president, let alone all those “pharmaceuticals.” If they don’t raise a stink about it, then it would speak to the quality of their information.
Maybe Jackson won’t want to test this out, though. As much as he likes his current job, the smear will stick to him as long as he remains in the White House.