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Is Ronny Jackson’s nomination in peril? Here’s what Congress, Trump are saying

Senators have indefinitely postponed the confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson, President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Lawmakers are reportedly investigating unspecified allegations that including drinking on the job. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Amna Nawaz to discuss what we know so far, and how the president is reacting.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, senators announced today that they will postpone a confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson, President Trump's pick to head the Department of Veteran Affairs.

    Lawmakers' concerns about Jackson and his time as White House physician first surfaced in news reports last night.

    Mr. Jackson, who has served under three presidents, responded today.

  • Dr. Ronny Jackson:

    I will just say that I was looking forward to the hearing tomorrow. I'm kind of disappointed that it's been postponed, but I'm looking forward to it getting it rescheduled and answering everybody's questions.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The president was asked about Ronny Jackson's nomination this afternoon, and said this:

  • President Donald Trump:

    If I were him — actually, in many ways, I would love to be him.

    But the fact is, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. 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 is totally his. I would stand behind him. Totally his decision.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Our correspondents Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join me now.

    Welcome, you guys.

    Lisa, let's start with you.

    We're talking about these allegations that have recently come up that senators are now looking at about Ronny Jackson. What do we know about them?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we know about as much as the senators themselves.

    I spoke to several senators on this committee who themselves have not seen the direct source of these allegations. The committee chairman and ranking member apparently have seen them, also Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who told me and other reporters that this involves double-digit numbers of people who know Mr. Jackson and our military or not — or former military.

    Now, we know what Mr. Jackson said to one senator he met with today. That's Senator Moran of Kansas. Senator Moran told us that one allegation is refuted or that he denies, that he's never had a drink on the job. That's from Mr. Jackson today.

    But the rest of it is very murky. And I think on top of these kind of unknown allegations that we haven't seen yet, there is probably even larger concerns about his level of experience. This is a man who has not run a large organization yet.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So where do these nominations stand right now? We saw he has been meeting with senators on the Hill. What is he saying to them?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There is very serious concerns on the Hill, but the senator he met with today, again, Moran of Kansas, told me that he saw a man who was confident, who says he wants this job, that he is looking forward to a confirmation process.

    But we don't know where that's going to start, because hearing now delayed. It probably will happen this week, Amna, and the Senate is on recess next week. So, that's two weeks of time that could be either good or bad for Mr. Jackson.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yamiche, this is the man who was President Trump's personal pick for this spot. What do we know about what the president believes, especially based on what we just heard him say there about Ronny Jackson's nomination?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    It was really hard to watch that press conference and not think that the president was trying to speak directly to Dr. Jackson and drop him a hint that, hey, maybe you should back out of this.

    He said specifically, I told him, hey, this is really going to be hard. Do you really want to go through with this? Aren't there other things you could be doing? If this was me, I would probably back out.

    These are all signs that he probably is telling him, hey, you should probably bow down.

    But I should say that the president lauded his doctor. He said that he was a great doctor. He said that he was someone who is an extraordinary person. So, what I'm understanding is that White House is still backing him. I talked to White House officials today who said that President Trump has been in direct contact with Dr. Jackson. So they have been talking.

    So, there has been no word from the White House saying, we don't want this guy to be VA secretary anymore. So as it stands in this moment, that he's still the nominee. Of course, the Trump White House sometimes changes things minute by minute.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So that's the view from the White House now, strong hints coming from the president. What about from Congress? Where do they stand on all of this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think there are real doubts about this nominee.

    But I was surprised, Amna. I heard from several Republicans who have met with him who said he's more impressive in person, that he comes across as competent, he comes across as someone who wants this job, and he makes a pitch that he's nonpartisan and that he's connected to veteran groups as an admiral, as himself a veteran, that they actually found appealing.

    There's a lot of skepticism about him, but in person, apparently, he's doing well, at least for now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yamiche, it does raise the question about the vetting process at the White House, right, why some of these allegations that are coming out in reports now didn't come out sooner.

    What do we know about that process, especially based on what past nominees have been through?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the first thing we should say is that a lot of people say that this White House's problems started November 11, 2016, when President Trump fired Chris Christie, who was heading up the transition team.

    The reports say that Chris Christie had a long list of people who were really experienced in different agencies, and that once the president let him go, that things kind of went awry.

    Now we can look at a long list of people. I was making a list before I came on here. You think of Ben Carson, who faced real issues on whether or not he was ready to run HUD. Betsy DeVos also had a lot of pushback to be education secretary.

    Then you had Andy Puzder, who had to withdraw his labor secretary nominee, not — for a host of reasons, including the fact that his ex-wife had alleged that there was domestic violence in their relationship.

    You had Rob Porter, who also had to be let go or fired or resigned, whatever the — there are a lot of people who say different things at the White House. The point is that he also wasn't vetted properly, most people say, because he had domestic violence abuse issues.

    So, this is a pattern of White House nominees having real issues. Of course, President Trump says that all these people are great people, that some of them are treated unfairly, that the media is too harsh on them.

    So, the White House narrative is that they do pick great people and they're picking people that are outside of the box, that when people voted for President Trump, they didn't want people that were just going to be government officials. But there are some real issues here.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A lot to watch there.

    And for the moment, he's still the nominee.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    For the moment.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thanks.

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