Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The White House Knew Ronny Jackson Had Issues And Covered It Up
To hear President Donald Trump hear it, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson is a fine naval officer and physician with no blemishes on his record, and his candidacy to run the Department of Veterans Affairs was scuttled by “vicious rumors” from scheming liberal politicians.
There are a lot of problems with Trump’s narrative, but another issue was revealed Monday, and it may be the biggest of all: One of the key accusations against Jackson — that he publicly disclosed personal medical information of a high-profile patient without her knowledge, in violation of federal law — comes not from a liberal senator or an outside interest group, but the wife of Vice President Mike Pence.
And the White House knew about it months before Jackson was put forward to run VA.
According to internal documents obtained by CNN and brought to light yesterday, Jackson “may have violated federal privacy protections” for Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence “and intimidated the vice president's doctor during angry confrontations over the episode.”
At issue was a medical emergency last September that required Pence to be transported from Camp David to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Jackson reportedly took control of the second lady’s health care without notifying her doctor, then proceeded to brief White House staff on her condition without her consent.
The second lady and her physician were understandably unhappy, and Jackson called the doctor in for an after-action… which reportedly turned into a dressing-down. Pence’s doctor wrote it up thus:
"This meeting summoned by Dr. Jackson appears to have been in retribution for me verbalizing concerns over the protection of the SLOTUS' medical information and his inappropriate involvement in the decision-making process of her care, which is consistent with previous behavior that I have received from him in the past," the memo says, referring to the second lady of the United States. "This unprofessionalism fosters a negative command climate that removes any opportunity for open, professional discussion."
Subsequently “Karen Pence asked her physician to direct the vice president's top aide, Nick Ayers, to inform White House chief of staff John Kelly about the matter,” according to CNN. “Subsequent memos from Pence's doctor suggested Kelly was aware of the episode.”
Why does any of this matter, now that Jackson — who’s served as physician to three presidents — has not only withdrawn from the VA nomination but agreed to leave his post as White House doctor?
Because, whatever the merits of the accusations against Jackson, the White House knew he had problems, not just of the kind highlighted by critical senators, but with the Republican vice president’s family — and it chose to conceal that fact from the American public in trumpeting Jackson for the VA job.
All to replace a widely respected and deeply qualified VA secretary, David Shulkin, with someone who would supposedly be beyond corruption or reproach.
Last week, just a day before the piling accusations against Jackson sunk his nomination, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders went to bat for him in no uncertain terms. “Dr. Jackson’s record as a White House physician has been impeccable,” she said, claiming that “he has received more vetting than most nominees.” In the Trump administration’s investigations, she said, “Jackson received unanimous praise from dozens of witnesses and the investigations revealed no areas of concern.”
Pressed by a Fox News reporter, Sanders doubled down. “A very thorough investigation and vetting process has taken place,” she said. “None of those [allegations] had come up.”
We now know that’s not true. Karen Pence’s doctor noted in the memos, obtained by CNN, that “Jackson ‘expressed anger’ that White House officials — including Kelly — were aware of the physician's concerns over his involvement in the medical situation involving the second lady.” The next day, “Jackson said that Kelly was ‘good with him and everything’ — and Jackson urged the doctor to let the matter go.” Jackson instructed the doctor to “let things go ... if I am to succeed in my career.”
That’s textbook toxic leadership — and the White House knew. More to the point, John Kelly, the retired four-star Marine general who runs Trump’s daily affairs, knew. And they pushed Jackson’s nomination anyway, while concealing the charges by Pence’s physician. (Imagine how the Pences must feel about all this.)
So where do we all go from here, with a White House full of people willing to conceal the truth from the American people when veterans’ care is on the line? There’s now word that Trump is thinking about a new VA secretary nominee: John Kelly.
You can’t make this junk up. But if you could, there might be a job in this administration for you.
NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.
Hackers could have breached US bioterrorism defenses for years, records show. We'll never know if they did
The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.
The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.
The State Department doesn't really care if its human rights training for partner security forces is working or not
By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?
Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.
A Kansas VA hospital police supervisor reported 'dangerous' deficiencies among his officers. Now he says he faced retaliation
The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.
And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.
A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.