President Donald Trump's decision to appoint his personal White House physician to become the next head of the Veterans Department Department hit a wall of controversy on Tuesday after it was revealed a senate hearing that would be the first to review Dr. Ronny L. Jackson's nomination has been postponed indefinitely amid reported allegations that Jackson has a habit of drinking on the job, overprescribing medicines, and creating a "hostile" workplace environment for his colleagues.
According to the New York Times, "Officials familiar with the allegations against Dr. Jackson declined to offer precise details but said that they suggest a pattern of behavior, not just one or two isolated incidents."
Tracked down on Capitol Hill by MSNBC early Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Jackson did not take the opportunity to categorically deny the accusations against him, but said that he looks forward to the hearing and expressed regret it had been postponed:
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 24, 2018
Subsequently, Trump was asked about the controversy about Jackson during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump said he wasn't sure if Jackson would want to put himself through the ordeal, but ultimately suggested the decision was up to the nominee:
BREAKING: President Trump says that he wouldn't proceed with the nomination process if he were VA secretary-nominee Ronny Jackson, but the decision on whether to proceed is "totally [Jackson's] decision" and Jackson will be making a decision. pic.twitter.com/D2Q1rGeuSW
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 24, 2018
As the Huffington Post's Marina Fang put it, "Trump seemed to suggest that Jackson, his pick to succeed fired VA Secretary David Shulkin, should drop out."
Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), respectively the chair and ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, announced in a joint statement on Monday that a hearing scheduled for Wednesday of this week would be put on hold as a committee investigation seeks more information on Jackson. The two senators also issued a request directly to President Trump, via this letter (pdf), asking for the White House to share with the committee "any and all communications" related to any Jackson's job performance, including any complaints or documented infractions, going back to 2006.
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CNN reports Tuesday that two whistleblowers spoke to the news outlet about what they witnessed while working inside the White House medical unit under Jackson, and that they had related these observations to the committee.
According to the Times:
Senators were keeping the details of their investigation underwraps but let it be known that the allegations are serious. Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii and a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said she had heard enough from colleagues to have “deep concerns” about the nomination. “This is concerning even for a very ethically challenging White House,” she said.
Asked if he still supported the nominee, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, offered only, “We’re going to wait and see what Senator Isakson and the administration recommend.”
As news of the possible allegations surface against Jackson overnight, the veterans advocacy group Vote Vets renewed its objections to Jackson's nomination on policy grounds, but said that if any of these accusation proved true, that would be an indictment of the president's own failure to adequately vet his choice:
If any of this is true, Donald Trump must personally and publicly apologize to veterans for being so sloppy and careless as to nominate Jackson to be in charge of our health. This nomination can have life and death implications for us!#veteransaffairs #Veterans #VA https://t.co/bQy9BhtQr0
— VoteVets (@votevets) April 24, 2018
Donald #Trump nominated Ronny Jackson without vetting him, and now a number of red flags may derail his nomination.
— VoteVets (@votevets) April 24, 2018