President Donald Trump fired Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin last month after a glut of bad reports about Shulkin’s spending habits and feuds with administration appointees, not to mention his resistance to privatizing the VA. His nominee to replace him, White House doctor Ronny Jackson, might not even get the job.
According to CNN, Jackson’s confirmation is in jeopardy due to “allegations related to improper conduct in various stages of his career.” CNN reports that Senate Democrats “huddled privately Monday in a basement office in the Capitol to discuss ‘raw allegations’” against Jackson, who has been the official White House doctor since his appointment to the position by Barack Obama in 2013.
They offered up some incredibly cryptic quotes about what they were up to:
“There are reasons, as there are with every presidential appointee, for very close scrutiny and vetting. We need to know if allegations raised by others may have some factual basis. That’s the process of vetting that has to occur,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, as he left the meeting, which lasted about a half hour.
“We need to be asking questions and there need to be answers,” he added. “At this point we are dealing with some fairly raw allegations and we need to know if there is factual support for it.”
“All I can really tell you at this moment time is we are continuing the vetting process. We are working very hard at it. It’s all hands on deck,” said Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the committee.
Asked if the allegations were troubling, Tester replied, “Only if true.” Asked if Democrats could determine if the allegations are true before Wednesday’s hearing or if he would need to meet with Jackson again, Tester responded, ‘We’ll see.”
CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe and Nancy Cordes offered more in the way of details:
All hallmarks of a good doctor.
The Washington Post reported that hearings for Jackson’s confirmation, which were set to begin on Wednesday, were canceled on Monday night. Aides for Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the chairman of the Senate Committee of Veterans Affairs, declined comment to the Washington Post.
It’s not just Democrats, however, who are vocally questioning whether or not Jackson will get the job. “Nothing about this is easy, and it takes a very unique person to be able to lead an organization that is so difficult to lead,” Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas told the Post, “and I need to be convinced that’s the case regardless of the sense of his experience.” Last week, Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota told the Hill that Jackson had a “very limited background in terms of managing groups,” while Moran told the same website that Jackson “doesn’t have the experience you’d think would traditionally be required at the VA.”
On Sunday, Axios reported that the White House and senators from both parties were “growing increasingly concerned” about Jackson’s nomination getting through the Senate. White House chief of staff John Kelly, in particularly, reportedly “thought it was unwise for Trump to nominate Jackson so quickly without going through all the due diligence that a normal cabinet nomination process would involve.”
According to a report last month, Trump picked Jackson partly because he liked the way Jackson “handled himself with reporters” in January while telling those reporters that Trump’s cognitive functions were very good and that the president didn’t have a single massive hole in his stupid brain. How’s that for due diligence?
Axios reported on Sunday that the White House ran Jackson through mock hearings this past weekend to prepare him for his Senate hearing, while a different Axios story reported on Monday night that Jackson had a conference call today with veterans’ groups and conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. According to Axios, Jackson said that he doesn’t support privatization, but Manchin “still has concerns about [Jackson’s] stance after the call.”