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VA Secretary Nominee Withdraws Nomination Amid Misconduct Claims

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Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and President Trump's choice to be the next Veterans Administration secretary, withdrew his nomination for the appointment on Thursday amid questions about his behavior.

Jackson announced his withdrawal in a statement:

One of the greatest honors in my life has been to serve this country as a physician both on the battlefield with United States Marines and as proud member of the United States Navy.

It has been my distinct honor and privilege to work at the White House and serve three Presidents.

Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.

The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. 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. 

In my role as a doctor, I have tirelessly worked to provide excellent care for all my patients. In doing so, I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards.

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.

While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

I am proud of my service to the country and will always be committed to the brave veterans who volunteer to defend our freedoms.

Jackson was due to begin his confirmation hearings on Wednesday. But Sens. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, announced Tuesday that they would delay the hearing.

"The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs is postponing the hearing to consider the nominee to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in light of new information presented to the committee," Isakson and Tester, who are respectively the top Republican and Democrat on the committee, said in a joint statement.

After reports surfaced Monday evening that there were serious complaints about Jackson's behavior, the White House issued a statement in support of their then-nominee.

"Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country," deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday morning.

"He's served as the physician to three Presidents—Republican and Democrat—and been praised by them all. Admiral Jackson's record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what's needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve.

Sources familiar with the claims against Jackson say he faced multiple allegations of creating a "hostile work environment." The accusations include "excessive drinking on the job, improperly dispensing meds," said one of the people familiar, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the situation. The other people familiar with the stories also confirmed those details.

Speaking to Fox News' Fox and Friends on Thursday shortly after Jackson announced his withdrawal, President Trump said he "saw where this was going."

"The White House has been consistently and abysmally careless, even derelict in the vetting process, which accounts for some of the problems with their nominees," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who also sits on the committee, told reporters on Tuesday. "These very serious questions about Admiral Jackson need answers, and the answers should have been ready well before the questions were raised publicly. And that's a disservice to the nominee, as well as the American people."

Jackson, a decorated Naval officer who was set to replace fired VA secretary David Shulkin, was best known for a January press conference in which he gave the president a clean bill of health. Before the allegations against him surfaced, some questioned whether Jackson had the experience necessary to run a bureaucracy like the VA.

This is a developing story.

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