- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

President Trump’s embattled nominee to run the Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that he’s not withdrawing his name, and he denied the latest allegation that he was wrecked a government car in a drunken-driving accident.

Ronny Jackson, a Navy rear admiral and the White House’s top doctor, told reporters that he was moving forward with the nomination as planned.

He’s getting buried in an avalanche of accusations that include drunkenness, handing out prescriptions like a “candy man” and creating a hostile work environment at the White House medical unit.

The White House dug in to stop his nomination from getting derailed in the Senate, where a planned confirmation hearing was postponed amid mounting concerns on both sides of the aisle.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also was forced to defend the administration’s vetting of the man who has been the top doctor at the White House since 2013 and on the staff since 2006.

“Dr. Jackson’s record as a White House physician has been impeccable,” she said. “In fact, because Dr. Jackson has worked within arm’s reach of three presidents, he has received more vetting than most nominees.”

The flood of accusations against Dr. Jackson didn’t raise red flags in any of the background checks, she said, adding that the nomination was now in the Senate’s hands and it was the chamber’s job to complete the vetting.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said they would get to the bottom of the allegations.

“There are many. It goes to the point that, as a member of the Senate where our job is to vet and confirm, we need to be able to do our job and we need to get to the bottom of these accusations to find out if they’re true,” he said on CNN.

Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Democrat, said to let the committee do its job.

“The point of having confirmation hearings is to make sure that we have vetted someone who has been nominated to make sure they’re appropriate to run an agency and sometimes allegations like these do come out at the last minute about their behavior in their previous roles,” he said.

The allegations of wrongdoing keep piling up on Dr. Jackson. He was accused of writing himself prescriptions and of getting drunk at a Secret Service going-away party and then crashing a government car, according to a two-page list of allegations released by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

He also provided “a large supply” of Percocet, a prescription opioid, to a White House military-office staff member, sparking panic in the office when the drugs were found missing, according to the document.

At the White House, Dr. Jackson told reporters that he never wrecked a car, adding that it should be pretty easy to prove.

Others who worked with Dr. Jackson said he handed out prescriptions like “candy.” Other coworkers said that during an overseas trip in 2015 with then-President Barack Obama, Dr. Jackson got drunk and banged on her hotel room door of a female employee.

A 2012 report watchdog report obtained by The Associated Press found that Dr. Jackson and a rival physician engaged in “unprofessional behaviors” as they struggled over control of the White House medical unit.

The Navy’s Medical Inspector General report found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as “being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.” But the report pinned most of the blame on Dr. Jackson’s rival.

As the nomination came under fire, President Trump said Tuesday that he stood by him. But he also said that he would withdraw if he were Dr. Jackson.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee postponed a hearing set for Wednesday on the nomination, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressing grave reservations about Dr. Jackson.

Dr. Jackson’s nomination first faced opposition over his lack of experience running anything even remotely as large as Veterans Affairs, the second-largest bureaucracy in the federal government. But the reports of bad behavior may tip the scales against him in the narrowly divided Senate.

Coming to his defense, White House legislative director Marc Short said Dr. Jackson “feels very strongly these are baseless accusations.” Mrs. Sanders noted “glowing evaluations” from his superiors.

Mr. Obama said in a performance review that “Dr. Jackson should continue to promote ahead of his peers, and already at a level of performance and responsibility that exceeds his current rank,” Mrs. Sanders said.

The VA itself has been under fire since reports during the Obama administration of veterans dying while stuck on secret wait lists. Congress and the administration have tried to make changes, but reports of mismanagement have continued to mount.

The slow pace of progress, combined with a clash over vision for the VA, led to the ouster of Mr. Trump’s original secretary, David Shulkin, last month. He was a senior VA official under the Obama administration and had been kept on for continuity.

⦁ Sally Persons contributed to this article.

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