U.S. President Donald Trump called for the resignation Saturday of Democratic Senator Jon Tester for raising concerns about Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday.
Jackson, who is the White House physician and a Navy Rear Admiral, dropped his bid Thursday to head the country’s second-largest federal agency as lawmakers probed allegations of professional misconduct and excessive drinking.
In a pair of tweets, Trump wrote the allegations “are proving false” and that Tester, who represents the western state of Montana, should step down.
Trump blamed Tester for the demise of Jackson’s nomination after Tester said Wednesday that 20 current and former members of the military familiar with Jackson’s office had told lawmakers that he drank on the job. They also said Jackson oversaw a toxic work environment and handed out drug prescriptions with little consideration of a patient’s medical background.
Jackson said if the allegations “had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years. Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.”
The White House presented documents to reporters from an administration official who claims they exonerate Jackson from the accusations of inappropriately dispensing medication and crashing a government vehicle after a Secret Service going away party.
Jackson was fast losing support in Congress.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers indefinitely postponed Jackson’s scheduled Wednesday confirmation hearing as they investigated the allegations.
Several news outlets reported that Jackson was known as the “candy man” for over-prescribing drug prescriptions, while CNN said that in one 2015 incident Jackson drunkenly banged on the hotel room door of a female employee in the middle of the night on an overseas trip. The U.S. Secret Service intervened to stop Jackson, according to the report, so then-President Barack Obama, sleeping in another hotel room, would not be awakened.
Jackson gained a degree of fame unusual for White House physicians earlier this year when he took questions from the White House press corps on national television, describing at length about Trump’s health after conducting the president’s physical exam.
Trump, the oldest first-term president in American history, was plagued at the time by questions about his physical health, weight and mental stability. But Jackson gave the president a top rating. “The president’s overall health is excellent,” Jackson declared at the time.
Trump unexpectedly picked Jackson to replace a holdover from the administration of former president Obama, David Shulkin, whom Trump fired. Several lawmakers have complained that the White House did not properly vet Jackson’s background before Trump announced Jackson’s appointment.