Embattled Veterans Affairs nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson suddenly withdrew his name from consideration Thursday after he faced fresh allegations about his conduct – and issued a bitter statement saying the list of claims were ‘false’.
Jackson was accused of wrecking a government vehicle while drunk and prescribing a large amount of an opioid painkiller to a military White House staffer.
The alleged incident is said to have happened after a going-away party for a Secret Service agent.
Jackson is also accused of giving a ‘large amount’ of Percocet, heavily-regulated opioid, to a staff member, according to a summary document.
‘The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated,’ he said in a statement reported by Fox News.
‘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.’
However, he said, ‘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.’
But he did not explain why he did not want to contend the allegation.
The document’s description of the wreck states that at the party, ‘Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle,’ without giving a time or place, or the reason he was driving the vehicle.
He allegedly prescribed the drugs to a White House military staff member.
But a White House official told The Washington Post that he fed up with the stories that have piled up on him and he may walk away.
Confirmation hearings for Dr. Jackson – President Donald Trump’s personal physician and a rear admiral – were delayed while senators investigated if the damning claims were true and could wreck his chances. He is pictured on Capitol Hill on Tuesday
The drug dispensing allegation is on top of an earlier claim that he handed out less regulated meds – Ambien and a stimulant – to travelers on presidential trips.
‘I never wrecked a car,’ Jackson said at the White House Wednesday, where he met with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and chief of staff John Kelly.
He was not asked directly about the accusation that he had been intoxicated during the alleged crash.
He added that it ‘should be pretty easy to prove that’ he didn’t crash a car, then vented, ‘I don’t know where these are coming from,’ in reference to the latest allegations.
‘Conversations with 23 colleagues and former colleagues of Rear Admiral Jackson, most of whom are still in uniform, have raised serious concerns about Jackson’s temperament and ethics, and cast doubt on his ability to lead the second largest agency in government and one tasked with the sacred mission of fulfilling our commitment to the men and women who have served our nation in uniform and their families,’ according to a document compiled by Veterans committee Democrats.
Some of the dispensing occurred on board the president’s specially outfitted aircraft.
Drugs on Air Force One
‘According to a two-page report summarizing the damaging allegations, doctors and nurses described a ‘pattern of handing out Ambien (to sleep) and Provigil (to wake up) without triaging patient history (no intakes, no questionnaires) on Air Force One. These are controlled substances that require tracking,’ according to the report.
He sometimes directed nurses to dispense the drugs.
The report also cites his office for ‘questionable record keeping for pharmaceuticals.’
‘Only after-the-fact would Jackson account for pills or provide paper records to account for shortages,’ according to the document.
Jackson also wrote himself prescriptions, a nurse told the committee.
A nurse noted that Jackson wrote himself scripts. When caught, he had someone else (his PA) do it.
THE DEMOCRATS’ CASE AGAINST RONNY JACKSON: TRUMP’S DOCTOR ‘GAVE OUT OPIOIDS AND WAS DRUNK ON DUTY’
Conversations with 23 colleagues and former colleagues of Rear Admiral Jackson, most of whom are still in uniform, have raised serious concerns about Jackson’s temperament and ethics, and cast doubt on
his ability to lead the second largest agency in government and one tasked with the sacred mission of fulfilling our commitment to the men and women who have served our nation in uniform and their families. Those concerns are best captured under the following three topics:
- Multiple individuals cited the nickname ‘Candyman’ used by WH staff because he would provide whatever prescriptions they sought without paperwork.
- Physicians, physician assistants, and nurses have described a pattern of handing out Ambien (to sleep) and Provigil (to wake up) without triaging patient history (no intakes, no questionnaires) on Air Force One. These are controlled substances that require tracking.
- Jackson would have been the prescriber though he also directed nurses to dispense them.
- The White House Medical Unit (WHMU) had questionable record keeping for pharmaceuticals so it is tough to account for all controlled substances with perfect accuracy. Only after-the-fact would Jackson account for pills or provide paper records to account for shortages. For example, missing Percocet (used for pain) tabs once threw WHMU into a panic. It turned out Jackson had provided a large supply to a White House Military Office (WHMO) staffer. Jackson also had private stocks of controlled substances.
- A nurse noted that Jackson wrote himself scripts. When caught, he had someone else (his PA) do it.
- Jackson prescribed medications when other physicians would not.
- Physicians felt uncomfortable and refused to be a part of the loose dispensing of drugs to current and former WH staff (and at times, their family members).
- Jackson would have staff write scripts for each other to give to non-beneficiaries.
- To protect one beneficiary, a prescription for a sleep aid was written for another provider rather than the beneficiary.
- Lack of documentation was difficult for one practitioner because that practitioner would not know the full array of medications taken by a patient when they came to that practitioner for assistance.
- A physician stated that Jackson has been lucky because his prescribing practices are reckless.
- A provider noted WHMU purchases pharmaceuticals from an on-line retailer, separate from Walter Reed, which enables WHMU to prescribe controlled substances without accounting through Walter Reed, which should be the sole supplier.
- Individuals cite inquiries by the Navy Surgeon General and WHMO into these issues, as well as a DOD IG submission related to ineligible personnel receiving care at Walter Reed in the President’s Wing. Outlined in that document are concerns about WHMO’s ability to be objective on matters related to Admiral Jackson. Mentioned in that complaint was a previous investigation by WHMO about dispensing of controlled substances.
HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
- Individuals noted a constant fear of reprisal. Specific examples that would identify the individuals concerned have been provided to Committee staff but are not provided here to protect their identities.
- Jackson was described as ‘the most unethical person I have ever worked with’, ‘flat–out unethical’, ‘explosive’, ‘100 percent bad temper’, ‘toxic’, ‘abusive’, ‘volatile’, ‘incapable of not losing his temper’, ‘the worst officer I have ever served with’, ‘despicable’, ‘dishonest’, as having ‘screaming tantrums’ and ‘screaming fits’, as someone who would ‘lose his mind over small things’, ‘vindictive’, ‘belittling’, ‘the worse leader I’ve ever worked for.’ Day-to-day environment was like ‘walking on eggshells.‘ As Jackson gained power he became ‘intolerable.’One physician said, ‘I have no faith in government that someone like Jackson could be end up at VA.’ A nurse stated, ‘this [working at WHMU] should have been the highlight of my military career but it was my worst assignment.’ Another stated that working at WHMU was the ‘worst experience of my life.’
- Jackson was viewed as someone who ‘would roll over anyone’, ‘worked his way up on the backs of others’, ‘was a suck up to those above him and abusive to those below him’, a ‘kiss up, kick down boss’, ‘put his needs above everyone else’s.’
- Individuals believe the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) and White House Counsel’s Office looked into these issues.
- Multiple incidents of drunkenness on duty were described to Committee staff. Several of these incidents involve overseas travel. These incidents are not described here to protect the identities of those involved.
- When ‘on duty’ or ‘holding the medical bag’, Jackson was required to be on call at a moment’s notice in the event of a health issue with the President. On several occasions, Jackson would reach for ‘the bag’ while intoxicated to show he was in charge. On at least one occasion, Dr. Jackson could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room.
- At a Secret Service going away party, Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle.
‘Physicians felt uncomfortable and refused to be a part of the loose dispensing of drugs to current and former WH staff (and at times, their family members),’ the document states.
He would also have staff members write scripts for each other, the report claims.
The document also outlines what current and former military members called a hostile work environment.
They described a ‘constant fear of reprisal.’
One person called him the ‘most unethical person I have ever worked with.’
He was also called ‘flat-out unethical,’ the ‘worst officer I have ever served with,’ ‘despicable,’ and said to have ‘screaming tantrums.’ A nurse called working at the White House medical unit, which has about 50 staff, the ‘worst experience of my life.’
The report describes ‘multiple incidents of drunkenness on duty,’ with ‘several’ occurring during overseas travel.
He was required to be on call on such trips.
Drunkenly banging on hotel door
Yet another charge is not included in the report, but was told to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and reported by CNN.
‘On at least one occasion, Dr. Jackson could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room,’ according to the report.
According to the account, in 2015 while on an overseas trip Jackson came back to the hotel where the U.S. delegation was staying and started banging on the door of a female staffer’s hotel roo.
He made so much noise that Secret Service members came to check and warned him to keep the noise down so as not to wake President Obama, whose room was nearby.
Two sources described the incident, and one told the network it was ‘definitely inappropriate, in the middle of the night,’ and that it caused the female staff member to be uncomfortable. The incident got reported up the chain of command.
Time with Trump
The White House defended the vetting of Jackson today by claiming that he has spent as much time with the President Trump as nearly anyone and passed four previous background checks.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday invoked Jackson’s constant house calls with Trump as the president’s physician came under scrutiny for his alleged role as a ‘Candy Man’ dispenser of drugs and accusations of excessive drinking on the job and hostile workplace management, as laid out in a 2012 Navy inspector general’s report.
Sanders acknowledged the White House did not know about the allegations until recently – but she claimed he had been adequately vetted and received rave reviews from President Obama when Jackson was his White House doc.
Asked if the federal checks was the extent of the vetting, she responded: ‘No. There’s a number of things. But you also have to remember This is somebody that spends more time with the president than just about anyone.’
HE WAS VETTED!: ‘Jackson has undergone four separate background checks, one of which was conducted by the FBI,’ said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders
2014 EVALUATION: President Barack Obama pronounced Dr. Ronny Jackson an ‘Exceptional Physician and Naval Officer! … A key member of my staff since my first day in office, Ronny is one of my administration’s most trusted advisors. … I consider this consummate professional a national asset.’
2015 EVALUATION: Obama concluded that ‘Ronny’s positive impact cannot be overstated. He is a tremendous asset to the entire White House team. Already at a level of performance and responsibility that exceeds his current rank, promote to Rear Admiral now.’ He also added in capital letters: ‘**ABSOLUTELY THE BEST! PROMOTE TO FLAG IMMEDIATELY**’
2016 EVALUATION: Obama wrote that ‘Ronny does a great job – genuine enthusiasm, poised under pressure, incredible work ethic and follow through. Ronny continues to inspire confidence with the care he provides to me, my family and my team. Continue to promote ahead of peers.’
Jackson’s qualifications had been an issue even before the accusations against him emerged. The military doctor has never helmed an organization the size of or anywhere close to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Trump encouraged Jackson to drop his nomination on Tuesday during a news conference, saying it is what he would do if he were in his shoes, while leaving the decision ultimately up to the physician.
After an Oval Office meeting between Jackson and Trump later in the day, the White House launched a full-scale defense of the military doctor who has served two previous presidents.
Sanders said Wednesday during a televised briefing that Jackson’s record as a physician ‘has been impeccable’ and that he has had ‘more vetting than most nominees.’
She said, ‘There’s been a pretty thorough vetting process done by the FBI, as well as three other independent investigations.’
‘These investigations are very thorough and certainly something that was taken into consideration,’ Sanders added, of the FBI investigations where government employees are checked for history of crime, drugs, truthfulness, and a variety of past family or work situations.
‘Jackson has undergone four separate background checks, one of which was conducted by the FBI … and came back with a clean recommendation,’ Sanders said.
Sanders also defended Jackson as having the experience to run the world’s second largest health organization, even after Trump said Tuesday that experience was ‘an issue.’
‘If he didn’t think he had the experience, he wouldn’t have nominated’ Jackson, Sanders said.
However she said that allegations against him – including the alleged drinking on the job and hostile work environment were ‘certainly something that we’d look into, absolutely.’
Sanders told DailyMail.com that the most recent check came at the beginning of President Trump’s administration.
That was a year and a half ago and far prior to his nomination to lead the VA following the president’s dismissal on Twitter of the previous department head, David Shulkin.
Sanders did not enumerate who performed the other checks beyond the FBI.
‘Dr. Jackson has had at least four independent background investigations conducted during his time at the White House, including an FBI investigation conducted as part of the standard nomination process,’ Sanders said at the top of the White House press briefing.
On the charge of over-prescribing meds, she said: ‘I think that makes it pretty clear in terms of very thorough investigation and vetting process has taken place. None of those things [have] come up.’
She called on Congress to ‘move forward with a hearing,’ on a day when Jackson was originally scheduled to take questions from Republican and Democratic Veterans Affairs Committee members before leaders of the panel elected to postpone it.
President Trump said experience was an issue for Jackson when he said Tuesday it was up to him whether to go forward with his nomination
Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the senior Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, dished details to NPR including verbatim complaints of Jackson’s former underlings who said he presided over a hostile work environment
Jackson has an East Wing office that puts him in close proximity to the president, but it wasn’t immediately clear why he would be spending more time with this doctor than just about anyone else, including family or senior staff members, as Sanders said.
His friendly relationship with Trump was on full display in January, however, when he claimed that the president has ‘incredibly good genes.’
Jackson claimed that the president was in ‘excellent’ health after his first physical since taking office, even though he is moderately overweight by government standards.
‘Some people have just great genes. I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old,’ he stated.
The White House is vowing to fight for the nomination of Jackson to run the VA, regardless of new accusations from CNN that he once he once awoke a female subordinate while drunkenly banging on her door during an overseas work trip.
That incident is said to have taken place in 2015 when Obama was still in office.
The woman was ‘unconformable’ with the incident and it got so noisy that Secret Service were forced to intervene so he wouldn’t wake anyone up, CNN reported.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Veterans’ committee, also provided new details on the allegations against Jackson in a series of interviews late Tuesday.
He told CNN that on overseas trips in the Obama administration, Jackson would ‘go down the aisle way of the airplane and say, ‘All right, who wants to go to sleep?’ And hand out the prescription drugs like they were candy … and put them to sleep and then give them the drugs to wake them back up again.’
Tester also told CNN that Jackson has the nickname ‘the Candy Man’ because he hands out pills ‘like candy’.
Tester had told NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ on Tuesday afternoon that his committee’s research turned up allegations of the type that can derail Cabinet nominees.
‘He is the physician for the president, and in the previous administration,’ Tester said, recalling that Dr. Ronny Jackson served more than a decade at the White House. ‘We were told stories where he was repeatedly drunk while on duty – where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world.’
Dr. Ronny Jackson (right), the current nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, has been accused of doling out sleeping pills and stimulants to White House staff while on long overseas trips with President Barack Obama (left), and of being ‘repeatedly’ drunk while on duty
Trump’s doctor is accused of drinking on the job, improperly prescribing medicine and creating a hostile work environment
Jackson was also found passed out drunk in his hotel during an overseas trip under Obama’s trip when aides needed him for medical assistance, the New York Times reported.
Republicans and Democrats atop to the panel scrapped a planned hearing for Jackson as the slew of allegations surfaced publicly.
‘I think If these accusations are found to be false, then I think yeah, there could be a confirmation hearing,’ Tester told NBC. ‘If these accusations are true I think it puts him in a world of hurt.’
Jackson ‘wants a public hearing to clear the air rather than step aside under suspicion,’ according to the network.
He showed up in the Capitol on Tuesday even as controversy swirled around him and said he was ‘looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering everybody’s questions.’
The president had questioned why Jackson would put up with the attacks and go forward with the job on Tuesday afternoon.
A White House source claimed Tuesday that Jackson is being ‘railroaded’ by a bitter ex colleague.
The surprise confirmation battle comes months after Jackson impressed White House officials and silenced nagging questions with his crisp defense of President Trump’s health and mental fitness for office.
Jackson is Trump’s personal physician, and served in the same role for Obama. He met with Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon, and White House officials said afterward that the president is standing by him.
Obama wrote in a 2014 assessment of Jackson’s job performance that he was ‘[a] most impressive leader who continues to perform at the Flag Officer level. Ronny has earned my confidence and the gratitude of my family for his diligence and knowledge. Promote to Flag immediately.’
A year later, he called him ‘Absolutely the best’ and wrote that ‘Ronny’s positive impact cannot be overstated. He is a tremendous asset to the entire White House team. Already at a level of performance and responsibility that exceeds his current rank, promote to Rear Admiral now.’
A senior White House official said Tuesday evening in a statement that ‘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.’
But Tester said Tuesday that ’20 military folks and retired military folks’ had come forward to the Navy’s military inspector general in 2012 to describe how Jackson made sleep aids and stimulants easily available to staff traveling on Obama’s overseas trips.
‘Most of them [the medicines] are the ones that make one sleep, and make you wake up. And these [were]… pretty much doled out, as, ‘Somebody wants to go to sleep? Here’s a pill’,’ he said.
Tester says service personnel under Dr. Jackson’s command used specific words when describing their supervisor’s on-the-job demeanor, including: ‘Abusive toward staff,’ ‘Very explosive personality,’ ‘Belittles the folks underneath him,’ and ‘Screamed toward staff.’
It’s unclear whether Tester was referring to his committee’s own investigation of Jackson or the inspector general report. But he was adamant that whatever poisonous atmosphere existed in the White House’s medical unit flowed down from the top.
‘I think it was pretty clear that he was the person who was creating the environment,’ he said, adding: ‘We heard the same story from enough people repeatedly, that there’s a lot of smoke there.’
The 2012 report cited Jackson for ‘unprofessional behaviors’ at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
News of the report, and Tester’s expansive description of its context, were the latest signal that Jackson’s nomination may not be long-lived.
Trump said Tuesday that he would understand if the rear admiral bowed out of consideration. News reports from CBS and The New York Times have relayed unsubstantiated allegations that Jackson consumed alcohol on the job, over-prescribed medications and presided over a hostile work environment.
‘I really don’t think, personally, he should do it, but it’s … totally his decision,’ Trump said during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
‘The fact is, I wouldn’t do it,’ he said, recounting his advice to the Navy doctor who also tended to the medical needs of President George W. Bush. ‘I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren’t thinking nicely about our country?’
President Trump (right) appeared in a joint press conference Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying he had advised Dr. Jackson that he didn’t have to press ahead with confirmation hearings to lead the Veterans Affairs Department
CONFUSION: Dr. Jackson told NBC News on Tuesday that ‘no,’ there was no inspector general report criticizing his job performance
Admiral Jackson is best known for his glowing review of President Trump’s health (pictured) after his first physical in January, which was met with intense sceptcism
According to the Associated Press, Jackson himself requested the IG report. It similarly criticized Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman, who led the White House Medical Unit until 2011.
The report describes a soap opera-like power struggle after Jackson, not Kuhlman, was named to run the unit.
The senior White House official suggested that Kuhlman was behind the media firestorm that threatens to sink Jackson’s chances: ‘[H]e will certainly not be railroaded by a bitter ex-colleague who was removed from his job.’
The inspector general found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members at the time. Some who worked with Jackson and Kuhlman described their working environment as ‘being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.’
‘There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on ‘eggshells’,’ the report found.
It’s unclear how much Trump knew about Jackson’s paper trail when he made his remarks Tuesday afternoon.
Jackson, however, had assured an NBC news crew hours earlier that ‘no, there was not’ an IG report reflecting anonymous allegations of misconduct against him.
Trump added, however that he ‘would definitely stand behind him’ if he decided to press forward despite political headwinds related to allegations of professional misconduct.
‘He’s a fine man. I’ll always stand behind him,’ the president declared, while insisting: ‘I’d let it be his choice.’