The odds of President Trump's Veteran Affairs nominee actually assuming that post seem to be shrinking quickly, and Trump himself said Tuesday he'd understand if White House physician Ronny Jackson bowed out, reports the AP. “If I were him … I wouldn’t do it,” Trump said during a press conference. “What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians?” Trump, who defended Jackson as "one of the finest people I have ever met," spoke after the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee postponed its confirmation hearing for Jackson Wednesday to investigate various allegations, none of which have been spelled out or substantiated. Details:
- Jackson himself: The doctor gave no sign he's planning to withdraw. In a statement, he said he's disappointed the hearing was postponed, "but I’m looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering everybody’s questions," per the Hill.
- A pattern? Stories by CNN and the New York Times hit on the three big general allegations: That Jackson presided over hostile work environment, allowed the over-prescribing of drugs in the White House medical unit, and drank to excess. Both stories cite sources saying the allegations are seen not as isolated incidents but as part of a pattern of behavior.
- Big caveat: Everything is still unsubstantiated. “Swirl of allegations happens all the time," says Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a member of the veterans committee, per Politico. "You have to show proof. Haven’t seen that yet." Still, GOP panel chief Johnny Isakson and top Democrat Jon Tester wrote a letter to Trump (see it here) requesting all paperwork related to Jackson's White House duties.
- 'Serious': Sen. Mike Rounds, another Republican on the panel, tells NPR that "these are serious allegations, and they are ones we'd certainly want to get through." He, too, added that they are "unsubstantiated." The Washington Post reports that Isakson has called the White House to express his worry that Jackson isn't fit for the job.
- The vetting: Trump is taking flak for not properly vetting Jackson before nominating him, including in this criticism by Chris Cillizza at CNN. "This is what happens when you govern by personal preference and favor seat-of-the-pants decisions rather than more thought-out ones," he writes. One of the big issues Jackson was expected to be questioned about by senators is his lack of experience running an agency as large as the VA.
- Bizarre nickname: USA Today has background on Jackson, a Naval officer who served as an emergency doctor for US troops in Iraq before serving as the White House doctor to George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Trump. The first president he examined, Bush, nicknamed him "Scrote" because of a story Jackson told Bush about stitching up his own scrotum after an injury, reports the Washinton Post.
- White House support: Before Trump spoke, the White House issued a statement in support of the nominee. "Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country," said Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley. He also cited Jackson's work as physician to three US presidents and said the doctor's "record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what's needed at the VA."
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