President Donald Trump’s decision to elevate the White House physician to lead the Veterans Administration was in peril on Tuesday, as top Senators in both parties announced that a confirmation hearing set this week for Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson would be ‘postponed until further notice,’ as Mr. Trump said it’s up to Jackson on whether he wants to pursue the post.
“I said to Dr. Jackson, what do you need it for?” the President told reporters at the White House. “So, we’ll see what happens.”
Mr. Trump said he had not seen details of questions raised about Jackson’s time as the White House physician, as Senators in both parties demanded all documents on “allegations or incidents” involving Jackson since 2006.
“I will tell you, he is one of the finest people that I’ve met,” the President added. “I’ve gotten to know him very well.”
“It’s totally his decision,” the President said.
Mr. Trump’s comments came as Jackson was meeting with Senators on Capitol Hill, hours after his nomination hearing scheduled for Wednesday had been postponed, as Senators demanded more information on Jackson’s time at the White House.
“We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and Sen. John Tester (D-MT), the top Democrat on that panel.
“We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review,” the two said in a joint statement.
The move came amid reports from various news organizations that raised questions about Jackson’s stewardship of the White House Physician’s Office.
The delay of the hearing was a major setback for the White House, again raising questions about vetting operations for nominees in the Trump Administration.
Jackson was already facing questions about whether he was the right person to manage the sprawling VA, which has been beset by a series of troubles in recent years.
“How did he get through the process with all of these allegations not being made public?” asked Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.
“My guess? Not proper vetting,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor.
While acknowledging he wasn’t there for the decision to nominate Rear Admiral Jackson, Schumer said he could imagine a scenario where the President simply decided on the spur of the moment to nominate the Presidential doctor – without any real review of his qualifications, or possible background issues.
“Trump spent less time scrutinizing his VA nominee than most people spend on Yelp before picking a plumber,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
President Trump fired his first VA chief, David Shulkin, in late March.