White House defending VA secretary pick as senators review allegations against him
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The White House is circling the wagons around President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Veterans Affairs secretary, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, as the senators in charge of confirming him say they are still gathering information on allegations against him.
The administration has circulated talking points about Jackson with Republican senators to use when asked about him. Under a section titled “On the Democrats’ attempt to smear Dr. Jackson,” the first point advises senators to push back by calling the allegations “false,” then saying that allegations, in general, should be taken seriously but considered during a hearing, not through the media.
The page-and-a-half memo, obtained by ABC News, defends Trump almost as much as it does Jackson, offering context on the president’s remarks Tuesday that he would remove himself from consideration if he were in Jackson’s position. “What does he need it for?” Trump asked during a press conference.
“What the President was also telling Dr. Jackson is to make up his own mind and Dr. Jackson has done just that,” the talking points said.
And the memo rejects accusations from some Senate Democrats that the White House did not properly vet Jackson before nominating him.
“I would really push back at the notion that the President needs to do a better job vetting his people,” the memo reads, noting the high marks that President Obama gave Jackson when he was his physician.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also told reporters Wednesday that the administration was moving forward in its request that Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., reschedule the confirmation hearing, which was originally supposed to happen Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said that he and his staff have been talking to the colleagues of Jackson’s who have been making the allegations against him.
Tester said in a series of interviews Tuesday that the allegations involved Jackson improperly dispensing prescription drugs, intoxication while on the clock and being “abusive towards staff.”
Tester did not provide any evidence to back up his claims.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of Senate Republican leadership, said that the Senate’s confirmation process will work in such a way that the Senate will be able to acquire all the facts and consider Jackson accordingly.
“I suspect that if he should be confirmed, he will, and if he there are reasons he shouldn’t, he won’t,” Blunt said.
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