Navy Adm. Ronny Jackson, White House physician to three presidents and President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs, withdrew his name on Thursday morning from consideration as nominee to lead the department amid mounting accusations of misconduct.
In a lengthy statement, Jackson called the allegations “false and fabricated” but said he was pulling out to allow Trump to move forward.
“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,” Jackson, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and an Iraq War veteran, said in a statement. “The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated.”
“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,” he said.
Jackson, Trump’s personal White House physician, said he “did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.”
“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,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who won Trump’s personal approval after telling reporters that the president could live to be 200 years old with a better diet, already faced stiff headwinds at the outset of his nomination to succeed fired VA Secretary David Shulkin.
Jackson had no managerial experience beyond running the White House medical staff, and key congressional leaders were unfamiliar with his views on veterans’ care.
Democrats from the Veterans Affairs Committee released a two-page list of allegations made by 23 current and former colleagues of Jackson that ranged from improperly prescribing opioids to a staff member to crashing a government vehicle while intoxicated.
According to the documents, Jackson was also accused of drinking on the job and creating a toxic work environment.
The claim that he inappropriately dispensed prescription medications was asserted in a new book.
“Without warning or explanation, a member of the medical team entered and began handing out sleeping pills like candy,” said former Obama speechwriter David Litt in his recent memoir, Thanks, Obama, describing an overnight trip to Germany in 2015.
“To my surprise, passing around prescription drugs is one of several allegations that sunk his nomination,” said Litt. “Back when I was reclining in my leather seat in the Air Force One staff cabin, a small ziploc baggie clutched in my outstretched hand, my greatest concern about sleeping pills was that they could leave me drowsy if POTUS wanted to go over his speech the next morning. I never thought I was witnessing potentially scandalous behavior.”
While Litt defended Jackson to some extent, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a senior member of the committee, charged that the White House “has been really careless, maybe even negligent about vetting with a number of these nominations.”
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