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By Phil Mattingly, Ryan Nobles and Juana Summers, CNN
(CNN) — Lawmakers leading the confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Tuesday morning that the hearings will be delayed indefinitely, following allegations related to improper conduct in various stages of Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson‘s career.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson and the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, made the announcement on Capitol Hill. The two committee leaders said they want more information about the allegations of misconduct involving Jackson. They declined to discuss the nature of the allegations — and both men stopped short of calling on him to withdraw.
CNN reported Monday that lawmakers from both parties on the committee are raising concerns about allegations involving Jackson and are reviewing them to determine if they are substantial enough to upend his nomination. Committee members have been told about allegations related to improper conduct in various stages of his career, two sources said.
Prior to that announcement, the White House said it was standing by Jackson.
“Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement, coming the morning after sources told CNN that senators are considering delaying Jackson’s confirmation hearing, scheduled for Wednesday.
Gidley continued, “He’s served as the physician to three Presidents — Republican and Democrat — and been praised by them all. Admiral Jackson’s record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what’s needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve.”
Combine that series of allegations that one GOP senator told CNN would be “devastating” if true, with overall ambivalence that bordered on opposition by Republicans and things are not in a good place for Jackson.
Two sources with knowledge told CNN that Isakson called the White House at one point in the past few days not just to raise concerns about Jackson, but to suggest the point may be coming where they would need to pull his nomination for another prospect.
GOP aides that spoke with CNN Monday night were characterizing this nomination going down as a “when,” not “if,” situation.
Democrats huddled privately over these allegations Monday night.
The bigger issue: the allegations are a trigger, not the sole reason, for Republicans to bail on this nomination. For weeks committee Republicans have been grumbling about the White House dropping Jackson, who they viewed as unsuited for the job, on their respective laps.
Several GOP aides described their bosses as willing to hold off from criticism until the hearing in deference to the President’s selection. Now they’re confronted with these allegations and Jackson doesn’t have many allies on the Hill willing to protect him.
Monday’s news left lawmakers and their staff scrambling, as both sides are trying to figure out what’s true. As one senior Republican aide put it: “A mess. A complete, utter mess.”
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