White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday defended Dr. Ronny Jackson’s record as “impeccable,” suggesting the Department of Veterans Affairs nominee’s position as White House doctor means he has been more thoroughly vetted than other Cabinet nominees.
“Dr. Jackson’s record as a White House physician has been impeccable,” Sanders said. “Because he has worked within arm’s reach of three presidents, he has in fact received more vetting than most nominees.”
Sanders said Jackson has passed four background investigations, including a recent FBI investigation that is part of the vetting process for Cabinet nominees. She said the investigations “revealed no areas of concern.”
But Sanders did not say whether the most recent FBI background investigation took place before or after Trump tapped Jackson as the VA nominee. And she offered no indication that Jackson was vetted over his qualifications for the job or screened for political concerns ahead of a contentious Senate confirmation process.
Sanders dodged questions on whether Jackson underwent any additional vetting before he was named as the VA nominee beyond the unrelated background checks he had passed in previous years.
She insisted “a very thorough investigation and vetting process has taken place” in the course of Jackson’s nomination — but repeatedly sidestepped questions on how much of that vetting process took place before Trump tapped Jackson for the post, a move that caught many senior aides by surprise.
Four sources told CNN that during an overseas trip in 2015, Jackson, the White House physician, was intoxicated and banged on the hotel room door of a female employee. One source familiar with the allegation said the incident became so noisy that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake then-President Barack Obama.
Sanders said the new allegations that have been leveled against Jackson are “certainly something we would look at.”
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the committee has spoken to some 20 retired and active members of the military about Jackson.
On Tuesday, Tester told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that others who have come forward alleged that Jackson would hand out prescriptions “like candy” on overseas trips, distributing Ambien and Provigil down the aisle of the airplane.
Members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee have been working through all of the allegations, but have not substantiated the claims, with little documentation available to corroborate them.