President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he would seek to replace the current Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, with the current physician to the President, Ronny Jackson.
….In the interim, Hon. Robert Wilkie of DOD will serve as Acting Secretary. I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin’s service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
“I am proud to nominate Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson M.D. as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Trump said in a statement. “Admiral Jackson is highly trained and qualified and as a service member himself, he has seen firsthand the tremendous sacrifice our veterans make and has a deep appreciation for the debt our great country owes them.”
“I appreciate the work of Dr. David Shulkin and the many great things we did together at Veterans Affairs, including the VA Accountability Act that he was helpful in getting passed,” he added. “He has been a great supporter of veterans across the country and I am grateful for his service.”
The White House for weeks has dodged questions about Shulkin, who had reportedly fallen out of favor with the President. White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told the Associated Press on Sunday that the Trump administration heard “these types of rumors” of Shulkin’s ouster “every day,” but asserted: “At this point in time, though, [the President] does have confidence in Dr. Shulkin.”
Shulkin, like many of Trump’s Cabinet members, faced scandal for his use of taxpayer dollars on expensive travel. An inspector general’s report released in February found that his chief of staff doctored records to make it seem as if Shulkin was receiving an award in order to obtain government funding for his wife’s $4,300 plane ticket to Europe. The report also found Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets, among other violations. The secretary apologized and said he would reimburse the plane and tennis ticket costs.
Shulkin was the only Obama holdover in Trump’s Cabinet, and the only Cabinet official to receive a 100-0 vote in the Senate in favor of his confirmation.
Jackson is probably best known for announcing to the White House press corps in January that the President had performed “exceedingly well” on an assessment used to test for cognitive decline.
The President had requested the test, Jackson said. Days earlier, Trump declared himself to be a “very stable genius” on Twitter after the journalist Michael Wolff published a book that asserted the opposite.
Despite Jackson saying in the same press briefing that the President was in “excellent health,” doctors told the media outlets afterward that, in fact, the data Jackson gave revealed concerns about Trump’s health.
“That’s a really high LDL,” cardiologist Eric Topol told the New York Times, referring to Trump’s cholesterol. “We’re talking about a 70-plus-year-old man who is obese and doesn’t exercise. Just looking at the lab value, you would raise a big red flag.”
Jackson began his service as White House physician in 2013, and has served as a member of the White House medical team since 2006. Prior to that, according to his Navy biography, he served as an emergency medicine physician in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to CNN, Trump used a now-familiar refrain to describe Jackson during a dinner with political donors at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in February: “He’s like central casting — like a Hollywood star.”
This post has been updated.