President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to suggest that amid recently surfaced allegations of workplace misconduct, Ronny Jackson, his embattled pick for Veterans Affairs secretary, should withdraw his nomination, calling it “totally” Jackson’s decision. The president also characterized the vetting process for cabinet nominations as the work of a “vicious group of people that malign”—a likely reference to members of the media and bipartisan lawmakers leading the vetting process.
“I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago, I said, ‘What do you need this for?’ This is a vicious group of people that malign—and they do and I live through it, we all live through it,” Trump told reporters at a news conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron. “You people are getting record ratings because of it, so congratulations.”
“He’s an admiral, he’s a great leader,” the president continued. “They question him about every little thing.”
Trump took aim at the routine scrutinization that reportedly prompted the bombshell accusations surrounding Jackson to emerge—ignoring the fact that the president himself put Jackson in the position of facing the rigorous process without having properly vetted his choice beforehand. “I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” he said. “It’s too ugly and too disgusting.”
Jackson, a combat veteran who has worked as a White House physician for 12 years, has been under intense scrutiny amid allegations from White House medical staff that include excessive drinking on the job and improperly prescribing drugs. The claims threaten what was already a fraught nomination, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressing serious concerns over Jackson’s glaring lack of management experience to lead a historically troubled department.
During his remarks as he stood with French president Macron on Tuesday, Trump acknowledged that Jackson had an “experience problem,” though he denied having knowledge of the specific allegations that first surfaced Monday. Trump’s afternoon remarks appeared to undercut the White House statement earlier in the day expressing confidence in Jackson’s record of “strong, decisive leadership.”