US & Canada

Row escalates over 'toxic' Trump pick for veterans' affairs

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with White House Physician Rear Admiral Dr Ronny Jackson, following his annual physical in Maryland, January 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Trump greeting his doctor, Ronny Jackson, after his medical check-up in January

US President Donald Trump has called on a Democratic senator to resign for making allegations against his pick to head the veterans' affairs department.

President Trump had backed his doctor, Ronny Jackson, for the job, but Dr Jackson withdrew his candidacy on Thursday after a flurry of misconduct allegations.

Democrat Jon Tester's office collected the critical testimonies.

Dr Jackson denies all accusations, which the president said are "false".

A two-page document brought together statements by 23 of his colleagues and former colleagues, who called him "flat-out unethical", "toxic", "explosive", "abusive" and "volatile".

Sen Tester said Dr Jackson was nicknamed "the candy man" because he handed out medications "like candy".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Senator Jon Tester (L) raised concerns about the suitability of Dr Ronny Jackson (R) for the job

On Saturday, Mr Trump posted tweets in support of Dr Jackson, dismissing "phony Democrat charges" and saying "Tester should resign".

Mr Tester, a Montana senator who is a high-ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee, has not yet commented. He is up for re-election in Montana in November.

Dr Jackson was also accused of getting drunk and wrecking a government vehicle at a secret service party.

The Associated Press reported that the White House has since said that Dr Jackson was involved in three minor incidents in government vehicles, but none involved alcohol and he was not found to be at fault.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the federal government's second largest department.

A confirmation hearing for Mr Jackson was postponed last week by Mr Tester, who said the claims needed to be investigated.

Rear Admiral Jackson, an Iraq war veteran, has worked as presidential physician to three presidents, serving George W Bush and Barack Obama before Mr Trump moved into the White House.

On Friday, he released a statement announcing his withdrawal. It said: "Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing - how we give the best care to our nation's heroes."

The last Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, was fired by Mr Trump last month following a critical report by an internal watchdog.

It was one in a long line of departures from Mr Trump's cabinet.

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