President Donald Trump backed his nominee to run the Department of Veterans Affairs Tuesday but also said he is "too fine a person" to have to deal with the Senate confirmation process.
Trump told reporters at the White House that he is standing behind Ronny Jackson, a Navy rear admiral who has led the White House medical staff, to be the next VA chief amid allegations of professional misconduct. The president, calling Jackson one of the "finest people" he's met, said he asked the physician whether he wants to seek confirmation given the media attention and opposition from Democrats.
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"I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago, I said, ‘What do you need this for? This is a vicious group of people that malign—and they do, and I live through it, we all live through it," Trump said. "You people [news media] are getting record ratings because of it, so congratulations. But I said, ‘What do you need it for?’"
Trump emphasized he was letting Jackson decide whether to stand for the nomination but he said he would not do it if he were Jackson, although he continued to praise him.
"If I were him—actually, in many ways I would love to be him—but the fact is, I wouldn't do it," Trump said. "What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country? I really don't think, personally, he should do it, but it's totally his—I would stand behind him—totally his decision."
The president likened the media scrutiny of Jackson to the criticism Mike Pompeo received in the lead up to the vote by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Pompeo was voted through the committee, which Trump said only heightens the opposition from Democrats to Jackson.
"They failed to stop him, so now they say, ‘Who is next?’" Trump said.
Trump also downplayed concerns Jackson does not have the experience to run the department that has 360,000 employees and cares for millions.
"As far as experience is concerned, the Veterans Administration, which is approximately 13 million people—you could run the biggest hospital system in the world, and it's small time compared to the Veterans Administration," Trump said. "So nobody has the experience."
The problem stems from Democrats’ commitment to obstruction, according to Trump.
"The Democrats have become obstructionists; that's all they're good at," Trump said. "They're not good at anything else. They have bad ideas, they have bad politics. The one thing they do is obstruct."