White House physician Ronny Jackson will not return to his role as the president’s personal physician, according to two senior administration officials, after a string of allegations caused the Navy rear admiral to withdraw his nomination last week to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sean Conley, a Navy officer who took over Jackson’s role as the president’s personal doctor last month, will continue in the role, the officials said.
Jackson bowed out last week after Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released a document summarizing allegations by current and former colleagues that Jackson over-prescribed pills, drank on the job and created a hostile work environment. Jackson has denied the allegations and has returned to work in the White House Medical Unit.
President Donald Trump has continued defending Jackson, with whom he formed a tight personal bond.
On Saturday, Trump wrote on Twitter that Tester should resign, saying that the Secret Service had been unable to confirm any of the allegations against Jackson.
Tester is facing a tough reelection in November in a state that Trump won resoundingly in 2016.
The president also wrote that “Tester’s statements on Admiral Jackson” were as baseless as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election — a probe he derided as “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” earlier this month.
Jackson made a splash earlier this year when he held an extended news conference on Trump’s physical in which he claimed the president is one pound under the weight that would be considered obese and said that Trump has "great genes."
Trump’s decision to elevate Jackson to his Cabinet after dismissing former VA Secretary David Shulkin nonetheless took even senior-most White House aides by surprise. The president announced the move before the White House had a chance to do the sort of thorough vetting typically performed on Cabinet-level nominees.
Jackson’s nomination came on the heels of Trump’s decision to replace his secretary of state Rex Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed to his new role Thursday after an unexpectedly difficult vote in the Senate.
That battle, as well as efforts to confirm Pompeo’s CIA deputy Gina Haspel to succeed him at Langley, overshadowed the hunt for a VA chief.
The revelations about Jackson, who served as physician for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, caught many in the West Wing by surprise.
Even before the Tester allegations surfaced, both Republican and Democratic senators had voiced concern about the nomination because Jackson had no experience running an organization as complex as the VA, the second-largest federal agency, behind the military.
Trump had sent mixed signals about Jackson’s nomination when the allegations initially surfaced, telling reporters that he “personally” wouldn’t keep seeking confirmation in the same situation but that the decision was up to the doctor.
On Friday, speaking at a joint news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the White House, Trump had nothing but praise for Jackson, calling him "one of the finest men that I’ve ever met."