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White House doctor Ronny Jackson withdraws as VA secretary nominee

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson leaves a Senate office

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson leaves a Senate office building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as secretary of Veterans Affairs, withdrew his nomination Thursday after facing allegations that he acted inappropriately during his time as a White House physician.

“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,” Jackson said in a statement released by the White House.

Jackson, who has served in the White House physician’s office for the past three presidents, called recent allegations that he drank on the job and improperly doled out prescription drugs “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,” Jackson said of the allegations.

Jackson’s statement came a day after Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released a report compiled from interviews with more than 20 military employees who had worked under Jackson, who alleged Jackson was a heavy drinker, created a toxic work environment for his subordinates, and was known as the “candy man” for improperly dispensing drugs while on duty.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House on Thursday, pushed back on the allegations, calling Jackson “a great man” who was “treated very, very unfairly.”

“He’s a hell of a man,” Trump said at the Rose Garden, surrounded by dozens of children taking part in a Take Your Child to Work Day event organized by the White House.

Earlier in the day, in a phone interview with the Fox News show “Fox and Friends,” Trump said he warned Jackson about the scrutiny he would face as a Cabinet nominee.

“I saw where this was going,” Trump said, adding that lawmakers were “trying to destroy a man.”

Asked if Jackson was qualified to run the VA, the federal government’s second largest agency, with more than 300,000 employees, Trump said, “Nobody has the experience, it’s a big monster . . . he would have done a great job.”

Asked whom he had in a mind for the vacant post, Trump said, “Somebody with political capability.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that Jackson remains on the job and “is here at work today.”

Trump tapped Jackson for the post last month after firing David Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration, who had battled with Trump appointees over the direction of the agency and faced scrutiny over his travel expenses.

With Lisa Irizarry

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