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Trump veterans' nominee considers withdrawing after new allegations of drinking, giving improper prescriptions

FILE PHOTO - Ronny Jackson, U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, meets with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) at his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2018.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Picture
FILE PHOTO - Ronny Jackson, U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, meets with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) at his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Picture

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s doctor Ronny Jackson faced new allegations on Wednesday about questionable drug prescriptions and drunkenness as the White House insisted it had thoroughly vetted him to become the head of the Veterans Affairs department.

The explosive new allegations against Trump’s nominee to lead the federal government’s second-largest agency were compiled in a document by Democratic staff on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

They said he prescribed himself medications, got drunk at a Secret Service party, wrecked a government vehicle and once could not be reached on a work trip to provide medical treatment because he was passed out drunk in a hotel room, according to the summary.

The Washington Post reported late on Wednesday that Jackson has begun telling colleagues he may withdraw from consideration for the Veterans Affairs post.

The sprawling department has long been under fire for the quality of healthcare it provides veterans, a group that carries considerable political clout in America. During his election campaign, Trump vowed to clean it up.

Jackson had been set to have his Senate confirmation hearing for the job on Wednesday. But that was postponed after senators from both parties said they wanted to examine allegations made by 23 colleagues and former colleagues, most of whom are still in the military.

Even after reports about the new allegations emerged, Jackson told reporters that he was moving forward with the nominating process for the position.

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“I have not wrecked a car, so I can tell you that,” Jackson told reporters at the White House on Wednesday, saying he did not know where the allegations were coming from.

Trump said on Tuesday it was up to Jackson to decide whether he would continue the confirmation process.

‘CANDYMAN’

Jackson, 50, became well known after giving Trump a long and glowing televised medical report earlier this year. The roiling controversy over his nomination is the latest in a long series of chaotic personnel issues for Trump’s White House.

Trump fired his first secretary for the Veterans Affairs department, David Shulkin, in March after concerns about unauthorized travel expenses. He surprised many by picking Jackson as the replacement, given that the White House doctor had no experience running a large operation.

The White House defended its vetting process, saying Jackson’s background had been evaluated by three different administrations where he had worked closely with the presidents and their families.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Jackson had undergone four different background investigations, including an FBI check, and had received strong recommendations from his superiors, including former President Barack Obama.

But Sanders said the White House was looking at the new allegations.

After she spoke with reporters, the Democrats’ document was released. It said Jackson was called “Candyman” because he would provide whatever prescriptions staff sought without paperwork. Sleeping pills and pills to wake up with were handed out on Air Force One “without triaging patient history,” the summary said.

Jackson once provided a large supply of Percocet painkillers to a staff member without immediately recording the transfer, alarming the rest of the team about the sudden shortage.

Trump’s White House has made combating opioid abuse one of its top priorities.

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Jackson was described as unethical, explosive, toxic, abusive, volatile and someone who would have “screaming tantrums” and “screaming fits,” the document said.

People working with Jackson “noted a constant fear of reprisal,” and the document did not identify his accusers because of that, it said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Susan Cornwell and Jeff Mason; Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)

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