WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump acknowledged Tuesday that Dr. Ronny Jackson, his nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, is in serious trouble amid accusations that, as the White House doctor, he oversaw a hostile work environment, improperly dispensed prescription drugs and possibly drank on the job.
Speaking at a midday news conference with the president of France, Trump strongly defended Jackson, the White House physician, as “one of the finest people that I have met,” but he hinted that Jackson might soon withdraw from consideration, blaming Democrats for mounting an unfair attack on his nominee’s record.
“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Trump said. “The fact is, I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for?”
By Tuesday evening, however, Trump and Jackson met face-to-face, and the White House moved aggressively to defend the doctor against what the president had called “ugly” abuse by politicians. A White House statement said that Jackson’s record was “impeccable” and insisted that he would not be “railroaded” by false accusations.
The concern over Jackson’s nomination is bipartisan and emerged after Senate Veterans Affairs Committee interviews with more than 20 people, including current and former military personnel who had worked with him. The committee began an investigation last week into Jackson’s White House work record, and its Republican and Democratic leaders jointly announced Tuesday that his confirmation hearing, planned for this Wednesday, would be postponed indefinitely “in light of new information presented to the committee.”
“We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” said Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the committee chairman, and Jon Tester of Montana, its top Democrat, in a joint statement. “We will continue looking into these serious allegations.”
Jackson, speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill before meeting with a Republican senator Tuesday afternoon, gave no indication that he would withdraw his nomination. He also did not answer questions about the accusations.
But he added, “I’m looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering everybody’s questions.”
Tester and Isakson said they would withhold a final judgment until they completed their investigation.