Trump thinks his VA secretary pick should drop out, but says 'it's totally his decision'

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump says he supports White House physician Ronny Jackson but believes he should not go through the confirmation process to become Department of Veterans Affairs secretary.
  • Jackson's confirmation hearing got delayed as senators look into allegations against the doctor.
  • He faces claims of overprescribing medications and drinking on the job.
Trump: Admiral Jackson is a great doctor

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he does not think his choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs should stay in the confirmation process.

But the president said he will leave the decision up to White House physician Ronny Jackson, whose planned confirmation hearing was delayed as senators look into vague allegations against him. Jackson faces claims he allowed the overprescribing of drugs and possibly drank on the job, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Trump said he did not know about the specific accusations against the doctor.

"The fact is 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?" Trump asked during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. "I really don't think personally he should do it. But it's totally his — I would stand behind him — totally his decision."

President Donald Trump answers reporters' questions during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the East Room of the White House April 24, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Getty Images

Trump called Jackson a "high-quality person" and added "he'll be making a decision." He said he talked to Jackson shortly before the news conference and questioned why he needed the job.

Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy, did not explicitly deny the accusations when questioned by reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. He said he is "looking forward to the hearing," where he plans to answer questions.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee had planned to hold a hearing on Jackson's confirmation Wednesday, but the panel's top lawmakers confirmed Tuesday that it would be delayed. Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and ranking member Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., sent a letter to the White House asking for documents related to Jackson's service and any claims against him.

Ronny Jackson, physician for U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tester earlier told reporters "there are a lot of things we're looking into."

Jackson already faced serious concerns about his ability to lead the VA, a sprawling and troubled agency. On Tuesday, Trump contended that "nobody has the experience" to run the department because of its size.

Trump tied the delay of Jackson's hearing to broader efforts by Democrats to delay his nominees for executive branch positions. He said he did not want to put Jackson through an "ugly" process.