President Trump’s choice to head the Department of Veterans Affairs may soon withdraw his name from consideration because he is frustrated by the confirmation process, The Washington Post reports.
The newspaper cites two White House officials who say Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is wavering between dropping out and defending himself against Democratic allegations of professional misconduct and excessive drinking.
The Senate indefinitely postponed Jackson’s confirmation hearing as it investigates so-far unsubstantiated charges he has overseen a toxic work environment at White House, where he is Trump’s personal doctor.
Trump has said he was leaving it up to Jackson to decide whether to step aside, while at the same time appearing to nudge him toward pulling out instead of putting himself through painful confirmation hearings.
“The fact is I wouldn’t do it,” Trump said. “What does he need it for? 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. ... I don’t want to put a man through a process that’s too ugly and too disgusting.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls Jackson’s record as White House physician “impeccable” and noted he got “enormous praise” in past employment reviews.
But according to U.S. news reports, others in the government called Jackson “candy man” for overprescribing drugs and passing out sleeping pills and stimulants wholesale during long official flights.
CNN reported one 2015 incident in which Jackson was allegedly drunk when he banged on the hotel room door of a female employee in the middle of the night on an overseas trip. The Secret Service intervened so then-President Barack Obama, sleeping in another hotel room, would not be awakened.
Senator Jon Tester, the lead Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said more than 20 current and former military members complained about Jackson.
“We were told stories where he was repeatedly drunk while on duty, where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world,” Tester said. “That’s not acceptable.”
Jackson has declined to publicly comment on the accusations, but has rejected some of the claims to senior aides and says he is being unfairly attacked.
Jackson is also facing scrutiny over his lack of experience managing an agency as large as the VA, whose 377,000 employees oversees health care for 13 million U.S. veterans.
Trump scoffed at that concern, saying, “You could run the biggest hospital system in the world and it’s small time compared to the Veterans Administration. So nobody has the experience.”
Critics also say the only reason why Trump nominated Jackson is because the doctor gave Trump a physical and appeared on television, saying the president is in excellent health and mentally sharp.