Physician to the President Dr. Ronny Jackson ran into another obstacle on his path towards confirmation as Secretary for the Department of Veteran Affairs on Tuesday afternoon.
In 2012, a report ordered by the Navy’s Medical Inspector General suggested then-President Barack Obama replace Jackson over what they categorized as a “power struggle” between him and a rival physician in the White House.
The six-page report by the watchdog group found the rivalry resulted in a lack of trust in leadership and a toxic working environment. Workers likened the tense workplace to “being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.”
“There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on ‘eggshells,’” the report found.
Jackson, who is President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, has recently been under fire for serious allegations involving drinking on the job and over-prescribing medication. The allegations only compound long-held concerns over whether Jackson has the proper level of experience to run an agency of 375,000 people — and a budget of more than $185 billion — when he currently oversees a staff of 70.
Trump has already lost one VA Secretary when David Shulkin resigned (or was he fired?) earlier this year shortly after allegations emerged that he misused taxpayer dollars to fund a European vacation for him and his wife.
During a Tuesday press conference alongside the visiting president of France, Trump strongly defended Dr. Jackson, calling him “one of the finest people that I have met,” but also hinted that Jackson might soon withdraw from consideration.
“I would definitely stand behind him,” Trump said. “I’d let it be his choice, but he’s a man who has just been an extraordinary person — his family, extraordinary success, great doctor, great everything, and he has to listen to the abuse? I wouldn’t, if I were him — actually, in many ways I’d love to be him — but the fact is I wouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t do it.”
“What does he need it for?” Trump continued. “To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren’t thinking nicely about our country? I really don’t think personally he should do it, but it’s totally his decision.”
The Trump administration reportedly did little to no vetting of Jackson’s background before Trump announced his nomination to be the next VA secretary via Twitter.
Senate leaders have delayed Jackson’s confirmation hearing in order to make sure Jackson receives a full vetting.
“We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” said chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), in a joint statement with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the committee’s ranking Democrat. “We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review.”