WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took aim at familiar political targets and added a few fresh ones during a campaign-style Michigan rally Saturday night.
Among them was Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, of Montana.
Earlier Saturday, Trump called on Tester to resign, after internal records raised doubts about some allegations that led his nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary to withdraw from consideration.
Tester is the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and disclosed the allegations against the nominee, White House physician Ronny Jackson.
Nearly two dozen current and former colleagues alleged Jackson had doled out prescription pain medications too freely, drank on the job and had “got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle” at a Secret Service going-away party, according to Tester, who is up for re-election in November.
Jackson strongly denied the allegations but withdrew his nomination Thursday. Tester has stood firm on his decision to disclose the allegations.
In his remarks at the rally in Washington Township, Trump railed against the allegations Tester aired against Jackson and suggested that he could take a similar tack against the senator.
“I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ‘em, he’d never be elected again,” Trump said without elaborating.
On Friday, the White House pointed to records and police reports that it said rebut some of the allegations about Jackson’s driving and prescribing practices.
Jackson, according to records and reports cited by the White House, had three minor government vehicle accidents in the past five years but none involved alcohol or were his fault.
The White House medical unit overseen by Jackson passed regular controlled substance audits, though some improvements were recommended, according to the records made available to reporters.
“Secret Service has just informed me that Senator Jon Tester’s statements on Admiral Jackson are not true. There were no such findings,” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon. “Tester should lose race in Montana. Very dishonest and sick!”
The president won Montana in 2016, but political handicappers give the edge to Tester over his emerging Republican challengers.
Earlier Saturday, the president described the allegations as “phony Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. ”
Trump followed up with another tweet: “The . . . great people of Montana will not stand for this kind of slander when talking of a great human. Admiral Jackson is the kind of man that those in Montana would most respect and admire, and now, for no reason whatsoever, his reputation has been shattered. Not fair, Tester!”
In response, Tester pointed out the president had signed eight bills that he had sponsored to improve the VA. The senator, in a statement, added, “It’s my duty to make sure Montana veterans get what they need and have earned, and I’ll never stop fighting for them as their senator.”
Trump said he had not decided on a new nominee for the Veterans Affairs secretary, who would oversee the second-largest federal agency.
Also at the rally, Trump promoted top agenda items that energize grass roots conservatives — appointing conservative judges, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending “sanctuary cities” and protecting tax cuts approved by the Republican-led Congress. He also took credit for the warming relations between North and South Korea, telling his audience “we’ll see how it goes.”
Earlier in the day, the president had tweeted that he had “a long and very good talk” with his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, after the historic meeting between Moon and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Trump is expecting to meet with Kim sometime in May or early June. “Things are going very well, time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set,” the president tweeted.
The rally came the same night as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Trump skipped the dinner last year, too, also attending a rally in which he took time to attack the news media and assure his audience — as he did in Washington Township, about 40 miles north of Detroit — that he’d rather be with them.