Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, White House physician and President Donald Trump's choice to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, is under fire tonight amid allegations of drinking on the job, improperly prescribing drugs, and creating a hostile work environment. NPR reports that the charges are unsubstantiated at this time, but they are numerous and serious enough to have caused an indefinite postponement of a hearing on his nominations so the accusations can be investigated. Asked whether he "categorically denied" the charges, Jackson said, "I'm looking forward to the hearings, so we can sit down and I can explain everything to everyone and answer all the senators' questions."
Montana Senator Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, indicates that beginning late last week the committee was notified by over 20 people, including military personnel, who have worked with Ronny Jackson. All of them are reportedly willing to talk. Most of the alleged activity was related to Jackson's behavior during international travel, including stories that he was often drunk while on duty. Stories of the nominee's behavior go back to the Obama administration. Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran, who also sits on the committee, says that Ronny Jackson has denied to him that he ever had a drink while on duty.
Accusations of improperly prescribing drugs also allegedly took place during international trips. Jackson is said to have frequently given staff members drugs to wake them up or help them sleep during trips that involved multiple timezone changes.Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee Johnny Isakson (R.-Ga.), along with Senator Tester, sent a letter to the president asking for further documentation about Ronny Jackson's time as the president's doctor and in his role as leader of the White House medical team. That letter read in part,
"We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation. 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."Jackson denies reports of the existence of Pentagon inspector general reports that detail the allegations.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., remarked that the situation is symptomatic of deeper issues with the Trump administration.
"Vetting failures unfortunately are symptomatic of a broader failure [of the Trump administration] to properly review and scrutinize the records of its nominees. The viability of his nomination depends on the administration's ability to provide answers to questions quickly, thoroughly, accurately and honestly."Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley voiced support for Ronny Jackson.
"Admiral Jackson's record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what's needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve."