Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson met with White House officials Wednesday evening, a senior official says, according to CBS News' Major Garrett. Jackson, the veterans affairs secretary-designate, did not discuss withdrawing his nomination, but he did talk about being fatigued by the process and frustrated with the unverified allegations against him that are driving the narrative about him before his confirmation hearing.
President Trump still backs Jackson and will give him room to decide whether to proceed. But now, there is a stronger expectation that Jackson will withdraw his nomination, Garrett reports. No final decision has been made, and there is no timetable, but the official predicted a decision within the coming days.
CBS News' Nancy Cordes has obtained the latest Democratic talking points on Jackson. They are intended to help Democrats answer any accusation that suggests Jackson's nomination is being undermined by politics. One point it makes is that there is more than one source on every allegation against Jackson.
The talking points also notes the allegations against Jackson, which have not been proven, are not coming from Republicans or Democrats in Congress. They point to dozens of men and women in uniform who they say "have come forward with consistent stories of very questionable behavior and judgment from Admiral Jackson."
The new unverified accusations include that he allegedly provided a large supply of pain pills to a White House Military Office staffer, wrote his own prescriptions and drunkenly crashed a government vehicle, according to a summary of the accusations compiled by Democrats on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
The new accusations are more specific than previous allegations, which said Jackson handed out sleeping pills on trips, was known to drink in excess and created a hostile work environment. If verified, these accusations could pose more serious problems for the administration, even as Mr. Trump and the White House have thrown their full support behind Jackson. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Jackson has undergone four separate background investigations, and no one raised a flag about him. The most recent of these investigations was completed during the Trump administration.
The minority summary is difficult to reconcile with the effusive praise Jackson received from not only President Trump, but also then-President Obama, who gave him the highest rating available and enthusiastically recommended him for promotion. "ABSOLUTELY THE BEST! PROMOTE TO FLAG IMMEDIATELY," Obama's evaluation said in 2015. He even included a handwritten note that read, "Ronny's positive impact cannot be overstated. He is a tremendous asset to the entire White House team. Already at a level of performance and responsibility that exceeds his current rank, promote to Rear Admiral now."
In 2014, he called him a "key member of my staff," and wrote of Jackson, "I consider this consummate professional a national asset." In 2016, Obama again praised Jackson and recommended, "Continue to promote ahead of peers."
The White House did not immediately reply to CBS News' request for comment about the allegations.
Jackson was described as, among other things, being "flat-out unethical," according to the Democrats' summary.
The summary also claims that missing Percocet pain tablets once threw the White House Military Office "into a panic." Mr. Trump has taken a hard-line stance against opioids and doctors who overprescribe them.
"It turned out Jackson had provided a large supply to a White House Military Office (WHMO) staffer," the report summary claims.
Another line in the report summary said a nurse "noted that Jackson wrote himself scripts. When caught, he had someone else, "his physician's assistant, do it."
The report summary also claims Jackson was drunk while he was on duty and in charge of the president's medical bag.
"On at least one occasion, Dr. Jackson could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room," the summary claims.
Once, at a Secret Service going away party, "Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle." The report summary doesn't elaborate on this further, but Jackson disputed the claim Wednesday afternoon, saying that he "never wrecked a car" according to the Associated Press.
In light of the new information, the Veterans' Affairs Committee delayed Jackson's confirmation hearing, which was to be held Wednesday.
Democrats on the Veterans' Affairs Committee provided reporters with some of the unproven allegations made against Jackson by almost two dozen of his former and current colleagues. It can be read here.
CBS News' Ed O'Keefe, Major Garrett and Jacqueline Alemany contributed to this report.
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