Trump’s VA Pick Withdraws, Calls Drinking And Pill-Pushing Stories ‘False Allegations’

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Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson withdrew his name as President Donald Trump's nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary this morning in a White House press statement. The announcement comes after days of mounting criticism regarding Jackson's fitness to run the second largest federal agency.


"Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation's heroes," Jackson said in the statement.

The problems for Jackson's nomination began early in the week; first his Senate confirmation hearing was indefinitely postponed, just a day before it was to take place on April 25. Then a flood of accusations about his tenure at the White House began pouring in. On Wednesday, the office of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, released a summary of the allegations levied against Jackson: They included contributing to a hostile work environment; infighting and power struggles with another White House physician; getting drunk on duty and wrecking a government vehicle; and an ad hoc policy toward dispensing pills, which reportedly earned Jackson the nickname "Candy man."

Related:Ronny Jackson Was Allegedly Known As ‘Candy Man’ For Doling Out Prescriptions. He’ll Fit Right In At The VA »

While he admitted he expected "tough questions" about his qualifications for running the VA — most of Jackson's professional career has been as a military physician, not an administrative head — the White House doctor said he "did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity."

Immediately after Jackson publicly withdrew his nomination, President Trump told Fox & Friends during a call-in to the morning show that he’d expected the media furor. "I even told him a day or two ago I saw where this was going," Trump said, adding that the doctor's opponents were "trying to destroy a man... it's a disgrace."

Though he has withdrawn his name as the nominee for the top post at the VA, Jackson refuted the allegations detailed by Tester’s office, many of which came from accounts made by military personnel who served with Jackson.

"The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated," Jackson said in the statement. "If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years."

Soldiers of 25th Infantry Division enjoy a view during a ride over the island of Oahu, Hawaii. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Sarah D Sangster)

About 1,500 Schofield Barracks soldiers, 16 helicopters and hundreds of Humvees, heavy equipment and shipping containers are headed to Thailand for the first stop of Pacific Pathways 2020, an Army approach to bulking up in the region with a light but persistent footprint that follows the "places, not bases" mantra of the Pentagon.

This year also will bring similar Pathways four- to five-month troop deployments (but not from Hawaii) to the Philippines and, in a first, an Oceania rotation to locations including Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga, Fiji, Palau and Yap.

The fall time frame will include another first for the Army: Defender Pacific, in which 8,000 to 10,000 mainland-based soldiers will practice rapidly deploying for 30 to 45 days through the second and first island chains that China defines around the South China Sea.

In 2021 Defender Pacific could jump to 30,000 soldiers rotating through on relatively short notice, Defense News reported. About 85,000 soldiers are assigned to the region.

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John Kelly, the retired Marine general who worked as President Trump's chief of staff for more than 16 months, told a crowd in Sarasota, Florida on Monday that he trusted John Bolton and thinks he should testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

"If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton," Kelly said during a town hall lecture series, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, mentioning claims in a forthcoming memoir by Trump's former national security advisor that the president told him a freeze on military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on the country opening an investigation into the Bidens.

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