White House Insists VA Nominee Ronny Jackson Was Thoroughly Vetted

Apr 25, 2018
Originally published on April 25, 2018 10:21 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We're learning new details tonight about the allegations being leveled against President Trump's pick for Veterans Affairs secretary, Ronny Jackson. The accusations range from drunken behavior to improperly dispensing prescriptions to volatile outbursts.

Senator Jon Tester, the leading Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, outlined these claims first to us on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED last night. But tonight, his office has released more details. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe is at the White House and joins us now to talk about all of this. Hey, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So Senator Tester has released a summary of the allegations, which he says comes from current and former military service members who worked with Jackson. What more are we learning now?

RASCOE: Well, the two-page document outlines some serious accusations against Jackson. There are allegations of multiple drunken incidents, including a going-away party where Jackson is accused of getting drunk and wrecking a government vehicle.

CHANG: Wow.

RASCOE: He's also accused of being reckless when doling out prescriptions and not keeping accurate records of pills he was dispensing. And there's one allegation that a large amount of Percocets turned up missing, and it turned out that Jackson had given the pills to a staffer in the White House Military Office. The report said he would write prescriptions to himself and even had private stocks of controlled substances.

Now I should say that these allegations have not been verified by the senator's office. And...

CHANG: Right.

RASCOE: ...These accusations - they're still being investigated.

CHANG: OK. Has the White House responded at all to any of this?

RASCOE: Well, we've reached out to the White House, but they haven't responded yet. I did actually run into Dr. Jackson, though, at the White House, along with some other reporters, after this - after Tester's document came out. And he was asked specifically about wrecking the car, and he said he did not wreck a government vehicle, and that should be easy to prove.

He said he didn't know where these accusations are coming from, but he said that he does plan to move forward with his nomination.

CHANG: So do you think the White House is still going to be backing him up?

RASCOE: Well, we don't know for sure after the release of these latest accusations, but they have so far. Earlier today, they made the case that he was really well-vetted because he had had a very long track record working at the White House. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that Jackson had been through at least four comprehensive background checks under three different presidents. Here's a little bit more of what she had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Dr. Jackson's record as a White House physician has been impeccable. In fact, because Dr. Jackson has worked within arm's reach of three presidents, he has received more vetting than most nominees.

RASCOE: But we should say that even though they say he was well-vetted, Sanders says the White House didn't know about these accusations before they gave him this nomination. They didn't come up in prior background checks.

CHANG: Did they say whether they plan to look into these additional allegations now?

RASCOE: Well, so I asked the White House about this earlier, before this Tester summary of allegations came out...

CHANG: Yeah.

RASCOE: ...And Sanders - she did say earlier that they would look into serious allegations, such as drinking on the job and things of that - but she didn't offer any more details beyond that.

CHANG: All right. That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe at the White House. Thank you very much, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.