President Trump announced on Wednesday that embattled Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin is resigning his post. Trump said he is planning to nominate his personal physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, to succeed Shulkin. Robert Wilkie, undersecretary at the Defense Department, will serve as acting secretary.
Yes that’s right, Trump’s own doctor is his pick to head the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. You might remember Jackson as the person who conducted Trump’s annual physical exam earlier this year and proclaimed the president—a 71-year-old rambling narcissist who routinely eats fast food—in “excellent” health due to “great genes.” Jackson also infamously gave Trump a brain test that the president himself requested, on which he scored a perfect 30 out of 30. Here was a question from the test:
Only two days ago, a White House deputy press secretary ominously told reporters that Trump had confidence in Shulkin “at this point in time.” Shulkin, who was a rare holdover from the Obama administration, was facing what was described by the Washington Post as a “mutiny” from within his own department, and had posted an armed guard outside his office.
He came under fire earlier this year when the department’s inspector general issued a report that described “serious derelictions” in relation to his personal spending during a trip to Europe. But as the Post wrote today, he was also at the center of an ideological battle over the privatization of the VA:
Shulkin, 58, went public with claims that Trump appointees on his staff were conspiring to have him removed. The power struggle centered on differences over a shift to offering veterans more medical care from private doctors at taxpayer expense, with conservatives at VA and in the White House pushing for more private care and Shulkin favoring a more moderate approach.
The next VA secretary is likely to favor a shift toward more private care, a goal at odds with many of the traditional veterans advocacy groups.
Jackson’s views on that issue—or any other, really—are not well-known. He served in Iraq and has been the White House physician since 2013. But he does not appear to have any particular management experience, which would seem necessary for overseeing a major Cabinet department.
This is a developing story and is being updated.