Ronny Jackson withdrew his name from consideration to run the Department of Veterans’ Affairs last week, but his nightmare ain’t over yet: according to a new CNN report, the White House knew that Jackson might have violated a patient’s privacy last year. The patient was Karen Pence, and they knew this because the Pences’ doctor told them.
CNN says that the problem arose during a medical “situation” involving Karen Pence last year at Camp David. According to CNN, the vice president’s physician (who wasn’t named by CNN) said in the memos that Jackson had overstepped his authority and inappropriately intervened in the Karen Pence situation, and furthermore, that he shared the Second Lady’s information with “senior medical providers...without specific consultation from the physician to the vice president,’ prompting the concerns that he disclosed Mrs. Pence’s private information.”
Pence’s doctor then told Pence chief of staff Nick Ayers about it, and at the urging of Karen Pence, Ayers told John Kelly. In three memos, Pence’s doctor alleged that Jackson was not happy about this development:
In one of two tense encounters described in the memos, Jackson made the vice president’s doctor feel uncomfortable with his “accusatory” tone, “unprofessionalism” and “intimidating” and “aggressive” behavior during their private meetings. Jackson told the doctor to “let the issue go” and to “let things go ... if I am to succeed in my career,” the physician wrote.
“This meeting summoned by Dr. Jackson appears to have been in retribution for me verbalizing concerns over the protection of the SLOTUS’ medical information and his inappropriate involvement in the decision-making process of her care, which is consistent with previous behavior that I have received from him in the past,” the memo says, referring to the second lady of the United States. “This unprofessionalism fosters a negative command climate that removes any opportunity for open, professional discussion.”
In one meeting, the physician wrote, Jackson “expressed anger” that White House officials — including Kelly — were aware of the physician’s concerns over his involvement in the medical situation involving the second lady, the memo said.
The next day, Jackson had another tense encounter with the physician, according to the memo. Jackson said that Kelly was “good with him and everything” — and Jackson urged the doctor to let the matter go. The vice president’s physician continued to raise concerns over Jackson’s behavior, even suggesting resigning to avoid seeing him.
According to CNN, however, Kelly and White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin said Pence’s doctor “should report the matter through the appropriate medical and military chains of command,” and neither this incident nor Jackson’s lack of experience stopped Trump from nominating Jackson to lead one of the largest agencies in the federal government. Whoops.
Pence’s press secretary told CNN that Pence “brought the issue to Mr. Ayers, who appropriately referred the matter to the proper channels,” and that Karen Pence “has been briefed on all the facts related to a private matter regarding her health care...she considers the matter closed and has no further comment on the situation.” Neither the White House nor Pence’s doctor responded to requests for comment from CNN.
Over the weekend, Politico reported that Jackson wouldn’t return to the White House as Trump’s physician. In addition to Trump, he served as a doctor for both Barack Obama and George W. Bush, which kind of makes you wonder: how did we not know Jackson was this allegedly bad at his job until now?