It's been a pretty hectic 24 hours for Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House's nominee to be secretary of Veteran Affairs, culminating in a bizarre ramble this afternoon in which President Donald Trump defended Jackson in the weirdest way possible: giving him an opening to bow out of his nomination.
Yesterday the news broke that Jackson's Senate hearing, which was scheduled for April 25, was abruptly postponed. Then came additional reports alleging that Jackson created "a hostile work environment" while serving as a White House physician and engaged in "excessive drinking on the job, and improperly dispensing meds."
While the allegations made toward Jackson were originally reported as stemming from a 2012 inspector general report, a senior White House Official clarified that the VA nominee's behavior was detailed in a command climate review rather than an IG report.
Jackson "has never even been the subject of an Inspector General review and he will certainly not be railroaded by a bitter ex-colleague who was removed from his job," the official said. "Dr. Jackson’s record as a White House physician is impeccable. He has improved unit morale, received glowing reviews and promotions under Republican and Democrat presidents, and has been given a clean vet from the FBI."
Jackson was already facing what would likely be an uphill battle at his Senate hearing due to his lack of managerial experience, especially since he's been tapped to take over the second largest federal agency in the U.S., which provides medical care to some 9 million veterans.
And then President Donald Trump weighed in.
President Trump noted in a Q&A; with reporters Tuesday that Jackson "is one of the finest people I have ever met"... then POTUS acknowledged that "there's a lack of experience" with his VA nominee.
Not a good start for Jackson, but it got worse. While the president said he wasn't familiar with the particular allegations leveled at Jackson, he all but said the naval officer should give up his nomination.
"He is a high-quality person. It's totally his decision. So he'll be making a decision," Trump said. "I don't want to put a man through a process like this. It's too ugly and too disgusting."
So, if Jackson does decide that he'd rather stick to his current post instead of wading into the bureacratic quagmire that is the VA, it sounds like his commander in chief understands.
Maybe a bit too well.
"If I were him, I wouldn't do it," Trump said — repeatedly.
UPDATE: This story was updated to include a statement from a senior White House official. (4/24/2018; 6:44 pm)