As VA Nominee Withdraws, Trump Offers Strong Defense

President tells 'Fox & Friends' morning show that Montana's Democratic senator has 'big price to pay' for helping sink Jackson

President Donald Trump on Thursday strongly defended his personal physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, amid reports that he has withdrawn as the chief executive’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The nomination crumbled against a backdrop of concerns that he was not qualified to run such a massive federal bureaucracy — the VA’s unionized workforce includes more than 330,000 employees — and allegations that he overprescribed opioid drugs.

“He would have done a great job, a tremendous heart,” Trump said in a “Fox & Friends” interview. “You know, these are all false accusations. They’re trying to destroy a man.”

Jackson (pictured above right) called the allegations “completely false and fabricated” in statement released Thursday.

“If they had any merit, I would not have been elected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physicians to three presidents over 12 years,” he stated.

Speaking by phone to the Fox News morning show, Trump singled out Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), saying the senator “needs to have a big price to pay” as he prepares to run for re-election this year.

“Jon Tester — I think this is going to cause him a lot of problems in his state,” he said. “He took a man who was just an incredible man — an incredible man — respected by President [Barack] Obama, gave him his highest rating. You saw what President Obama said. President [George W.] Bush. He was the doctor to President Bush, to President Obama, to the family. He’s been my doctor.”

Related: Feds Prosecuting Fewer Crimes Involving VA Workers Under Trump

Trump said it is unfair to argue Jackson lacks the experience necessary to run the VA because nobody has experience running an organization that large.

Trump said he has a potential replacement in mind, someone with political experience, but declined to identify him.

The president also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to step up efforts to confirm his nominees. He referenced a report that at the current pace, it would take the Senate nine years — outlasting a potential second term — to confirm all of his nominees.

“The Democrats are obstructionists,” he said. “It’s horrible what they’re doing … It’s a disgrace.”

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, article image: Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)