In an exclusive interview Tuesday at 5:06PM with Ari Shapiro on All Things Considered, Montana Senator Jon Tester, ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs, for the first time details the accusations against Dr. Ronny Jackson.
Dr. Jackson is the White House physician and President Trump's nominee for VA Secretary. Sen. Tester says the nominee has been accused of the improper dispensing of prescription drugs, of being repeatedly drunk while on duty while traveling, and of creating a hostile work environment.
Sen. Tester says that 20 military personnel who worked for Dr. Jackson, all of whom are active duty or retired, came forward with these allegations. When asked if he was confident the allegations were not politically motivated, Sen. Tester said the same story was heard from enough people, repeatedly, that there's "a lot of smoke there." When asked if there is supporting documentation to the allegations, Tester said the allegations are all verbal so far.
Highlights from the interview:
About the kind of prescription drugs:
"Most of them are the ones that make you want to sleep and then make you wake up. And these are basically were doled out and by the way we had 20 military folks and retired military folks tell us these stories. These were doled out on overseas trips where there's a lot of time zone changes and were pretty much doled out if somebody wants to go to sleep – here's a pill."
About being repeatedly drunk on duty:
"Once again it was on travel and he is the physician for the president, and in the previous administration we were told of stories where he was repeatedly drunk while on duty where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That's not acceptable."
About the accusation that he oversaw a hostile work environment:
"Some of the exact words that were used by the folks we talked to were "abusive toward staff," "very explosive personality," "belittles the folks underneath him," staff that he oversaw. "Screamed toward staff." Basically creating an environment where the staff felt that they needed to walk on eggshells when they were around him."
Sen. Tester said it was "pretty clear" that Dr. Jackson was the one creating the hostile work environment.
Sen. Tester also said he spoke with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about these allegations yesterday.
On speaking with WH Chief of Staff John Kelly:
"In this particular case we need someone in the VA that isn't gonna come in with a whole bunch of baggage because there's a lot of work to be done in the VA. Our military men and women, we've been at war for 17 years, the Vietnam vets are getting older, the list goes on and on and on about what has to be done out there in the VA to make it meet the 21st century challenges they face. So, my sentiment to John Kelly was that we are going to do our job, our constitutional duty here, we are going to get to the bottom of this, find out what the facts are and move forward."
Tester also indicated that the committee's inquiry into these allegations are bipartisan in nature, and that the Republican chairman of the committee – Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson – is "very concerned about all the things that have come up over the last week and the number of people who have brought them forth."
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