President Trump said Tuesday that Dr. Ronny Jackson, his embattled nominee to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs, shouldn’t have to endure the aggravation of going through a partisan confirmation hearing — adding that if it were him, he’d bail on the offer.
“I said, ‘You know what Doc? You’re too fine a person.’ I said, ‘What do you need it for?’”
The president praised Jackson and said he would leave the decision up to him about pursuing the nomination — but then said that he was reluctant to encourage Jackson, who had been accused of drinking on the job to continue seeking the gig.
“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this. It’s too disgusting,” Trump said.
“If I were him, actually, in many ways I would love to be him, but the fact is I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren’t thinking nicely about our country? I really don’t think personally he should do it, but it’s totally his decision,“ Trump said.
Earlier, the White House stood behind Jackson despite the allegations that he drank on the job and a Senate committee’s indefinite delay of a confirmation hearing that had been set for Wednesday.
Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley praised the nominee, Jackson, the president’s doctor who also served as White House physician to ex presidents Obama and George W. Bush.
Gidley said Jackson had a record of “strong decisive leadership” and was “exactly what’s needed at the VA” — a huge federal agency comprised of 360,000 employees who care for 9 million veterans.
Jackson, a Navy rear admiral and favorite of the president’s since giving reporters a glowing assessment of the commander-in-chief’s physical and mental health after his annual check-up, has no management experience.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, wanted the hearing postponed due to multiple claims of a hostile work environment, excessive drinking on the job and improperly dispensing meds.
Multiple reports citing administration sources said Jackson was never vetted before the president announced his surprise nomination.
Veterans Groups questioned the pick, noting that Jackson had no experience with the VA.
“Donald Trump nominated Ronny Jackson without vetting him, and now a number of red flags may derail his nomination. Trump’s sloppy carelessness in picking someone to run veterans affairs shows the low regard he has for us veterans and our care,” tweeted the group VoteVets, which encourages veterans to run for political office and has been blocked by the president on Twitter.
Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for the upper chamber’s Veterans Affairs Committee, cited growing questions from lawmakers over Jackson’s qualifications as reason for the hearing’s delay.
Trump picked Jackson to head the VA last month after firing former Obama administration official David Shulkin following an ethics scandal and mounting rebellion within the agency.
But Jackson has faced numerous questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers about whether he has the experience to manage the massive department.
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