Trump says Democrat should quit over VA nomination brouhaha
WASHINGTON » A furious President Donald Trump on Saturday called for the resignation of the Democratic senator who assembled and released what he called “false” allegations that scuttled the nomination of the White House doctor who’d been in line to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Trump stepped up his criticism of Montana’s Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Committee, in two tweets days after asserting that Tester “has to have a big price to pay” politically in the GOP friendly state for his leading role in Ronny Jackson’s failed VA bid. Tester faces a competitive re-election race this year.
Tester, in a statement, didn’t directly respond to Trump but said he was committed to aiding veterans.
At issue are allegations that Tester has said were brought to his attention by more than 20 military and retired military personnel who’ve worked with Jackson. Tester said not investigating would have been “a dereliction of duty” and said making them public was important for the sake of transparency.
The charges against Jackson raised questions about his prescribing practices and leadership ability, including accusations of drunkenness on the job. Tester’s office collected the allegations, which included a claim that Jackson “got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle” at a Secret Service going-away party.
Trump tweeted early Saturday that the allegations “are proving false. The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phony Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign.”
Trump said people in Montana, a state he won by 20 percentage points in 2016, “will not stand for this kind of slander.” He called Jackson “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!”
Before leaving for a rally in Michigan, Trump directed another tweet at Tester, likening the senator’s claims against Jackson to the “phony Russian Collusion” accusations leveled against Trump’s 2016 campaign. “Tester should lose race in Montana. Very dishonest and sick!”
A written statement by Tester didn’t respond directly to Trump’s remarks.
“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,” it said. It also said Trump has signed eight Tester bills on veterans into law.
A spokeswoman for the committee chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., declined comment Saturday on Trump’s tweets. When Amanda Maddox was asked whether Isakson was troubled by Tester’s release of the allegations, she cited comments the chairman made Thursday: “Everyone has an obligation if they make a charge to release it. And everyone who is charged has a right to have a day in court to be heard.”
The White House said Friday, one day after Jackson withdrew his nomination, that internal records raise doubt about some of the most serious accusations.
The White House said its records, including police reports, show Jackson was in three minor incidents in government vehicles during the past five years, but none involved the use of alcohol and he was not found to be at fault. In one case, a side-view mirror was clipped by a passing truck. In another incident an enraged driver in Montgomery County, Maryland, allegedly punched out Jackson’s window during a morning drive to Camp David.
The White House medical unit that Jackson ran successfully passed regular controlled substance audits, according to the records for the last three years. The reviews did recommend improvements to the medical unit’s handling of controlled substances, but did not find misconduct.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., arrives for voting at the Capitol in Washington in January. With a flat-top haircut, three missing fingers and a quite-wide girth, Tester has somehow kept a low profile in Congress. Then he caught the attention of Americans,...