WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s investigative watchdog has initiated a probe into U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, the White House military physician who withdrew from consideration as President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs amid allegations of improper conduct.
The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, which investigates possible wrongdoing at by the Pentagon and its staff, confirmed in a statement Monday that it recently initiated a probe into Jackson. A spokesman declined to go into detail about the scope or character of the probe.
The investigation marks the latest fallout from President Trump’s attempt to elevate his physician to the Cabinet, a bold move that ended in Jackson’s nomination falling apart and the military physician’s highflying career under scrutiny by Pentagon investigators.
Not long after Trump nominated Jackson to the Cabinet post, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, released a two-page summary of allegations that had surfaced against the White House physician. Those included accusations that he improperly prescribed drugs, created a hostile work environment and drank while on duty.
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The White House said it conducted a thorough review of Jackson’s record and found three minor incidents but no evidence that the physician was responsible for some of the more extreme allegations in Tester’s document, including one accusing him of wrecking a government vehicle after drinking.
Jackson, who served as White House physician under three administrations, strongly denied any wrongdoing. The president came to the doctor’s defense, accusing Tester of a smear campaign that devastated Jackson’s family. Trump called on the Montana senator to resign.
The Department of Defense Inspector General has the authority to conduct administrative and criminal investigations. A spokesman for the office declined to say whether Jackson was the subject of an administrative or criminal probe.
A spokesman for the White House declined to comment on the investigation.
In early May, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Jackson was no longer serving as the president’s physician but remained on the White House medical staff. The U.S. Navy confirmed on Monday that Jackson remained detailed to the staff.
Since the collapse of Jackson’s nomination, Trump has chosen a top Pentagon official, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Robert Wilkie, to become his next veterans affairs secretary.
Wilkie has served as acting secretary since Trump ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in late March amid a broader shake-up across the administration.