President Donald Trump said Thursday that Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) needs to have a "big price to pay" in Montana for publicizing allegations about the professional conduct of Ronny Jackson, who as a result has withdrawn his name from consideration to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Trump had nominated Jackson, the White House physician and a Navy rear admiral, to serve as secretary of veterans affairs, but Jackson's nomination became hampered this week by a wave of allegations about his professional behavior. The office of Tester, the ranking member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, released a document on Wednesday listing the allegations, which include creating a hostile work environment, drinking on the job, and loosely handling prescription pain medications.
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Jackson on Thursday castigated the allegations as "completely false and fabricated" in a statement announcing his withdrawal.
Trump directed his ire at Tester when asked for his reaction to Jackson's withdrawal on "Fox & Friends."
"I watch what Jon Tester of Montana, a state that I won by [20 points]—they love me and I love them. And I want to tell you, Jon Tester, I think this is going to cause him a lot of problems in his state," Trump said.
Trump called Jackson an "incredible man," noting that both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for whom he also served as White House physician, respected him.
Trump added that he is the one who approached Jackson about running the Department of Veterans Affairs, saying the doctor "would have done a great job."
"These are all false accusations; these are false. They are trying to destroy a man," Trump said of the allegations. "For Jon Tester to start bringing up stuff like ‘candy man,' and the kind of things he was saying, and then say, ‘You know, these are statements that are made.' There's no proof this."
"For him to be doing this to this man and his family, I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana," Trump said, adding that Jackson has an "unblemished record."
Tester has acknowledged that the anonymous allegations leveled against Jackson have not been proven.
Trump added that he has a new candidate in mind to nominate for the VA post, but said he is not yet ready to announce who it is.