Jackson’s withdrawal comes amid a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee investigation into allegations that the White House doctor created “a hostile work environment,” including “excessive drinking on the job” and “improperly dispensing meds.”
In a statement released Thursday, Jackson called the media coverage surrounding the allegations “a distraction.”
Senators on the committee announced Tuesday that they were postponing Jackson’s confirmation hearings in light of the concerns over his qualifications and conduct. The president stood by his nominee but hinted Jackson should possibly consider withdrawing his name.
In light of Jackson’s withdrawal Thursday, Trump claimed on “Fox & Friends” that Democrats are obstructing his nominees.
Trump, bragging that he won Montana by a large margin, directly attacked Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the committee, threatening electoral consequences. “I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana.”
Trump again praised Jackson, claiming that Tester was trying to demean Jackson. “These are all false accusations,” Trump said. “They are trying to destroy a man.”
Asked about the issue during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday, Trump said he hadn’t “heard of the particular allegations” against his nominee. He also praised Jackson as “one of the finest people that I have met” and “a great doctor.”
Trump, however, appeared to suggest that Jackson might drop out, noting that it was ultimately the doctor’s decision.
“He has to listen to the abuse,” the president said. “I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians.”
Trump nominated Jackson to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs in March after the White House announced that David Shulkin would no longer be in the post.
Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy, has served under three different presidents, as a White House physician since 2006 and physician to the president since 2013. He found himself in the spotlight in January when he delivered a media briefing on Trump’s medical checkup, saying he found the president to be “in excellent health.”
Trump touted Jackson as “highly trained and qualified” in announcing the doctor’s nomination for VA secretary. But critics worried Jackson lacked the managerial experience necessary to lead the sprawling department ― a place known for bureaucratic mismanagement.
VoteVets, a progressive organization representing veterans, said at the time of Jackson’s nomination that it was troubled by the lack of information about his ability to lead.
“Other than a total lack of awareness of where he stands on any issue, we are also concerned that he has never managed an agency like the VA,” Will Fischer, VoteVets’ director of government relations, said in a statement. “Now is not the time for people who need training wheels.”