Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

As White House physician Ronny Jackson vows to continue with the battle to become the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, new allegations have surfaced outlining the extent to which Jackson may have behaved improperly as a presidential physician.

During an interview with CNN Tuesday evening, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) outlined some of the allegations he had learned while speaking with at least 20 current and former military members about Jackson. Tester is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which postponed Jackson’s confirmation hearing — originally set for Wednesday — to review the mounting allegations against Jackson.

Tester told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Jackson was nicknamed the “‘candy man’ because he handed out prescription drugs like they were candy.”

“That’s not a nickname you want in a doctor and when you consider the prescription drugs we have a problem with in this country right now, it’s not the example we need to have set,” he said.

He said that he was told that most of the allegations about Jackson’s reported issues with drinking on the job were during former President Barack Obama’s administration, particularly during trips overseas. Tester said Jackson would drink in “social” situations while on trips, but that “there were comments” made about the drinking getting out of hand.

“There were comments about him being in the hotel room and he couldn’t respond because he had been drinking too much,” he said, and confirmed that someone else was asked to fill in. “If you’re drunk and something happens with the President, it’s very difficult to go in and treat the President how it needs to be done. So this is totally unacceptable under this environment and multiple people told us this was the case on several different trips.”

Later Tuesday evening, CNN reported that Jackson was so intoxicated during a 2015 trip overseas that he banged on the hotel room door of a female employee. According to four sources familiar with the incident who spoke with CNN, Jackson became so loud that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake Obama. Two additional sources who previously worked in the White House medial unit confirmed the incident to CNN, and said it happened in the middle of the night and made the female employee uncomfortable. On Wednesday, Tester confirmed on CNN that this allegation was among the testimonies the committee was reviewing.  

The new allegations expand on recent reports that allege Jackson created a hostile working environment in the White House and had issues with excessive drinking on the job. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said Tuesday that it was going to delay Jackson’s confirmation hearing while it eyed the allegations. Tester and the committee chair, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent a letter to the White House Tuesday asking for documents related to Jackson and any records of allegations against him.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday afternoon that in 2012 the Navy’s medical inspector general suggested that the White House consider replacing Jackson and his colleague Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman for “unprofessional behavior.”

The White House has stood behind Jackson and doubled down on its support of the embattled nominee on Tuesday evening. Trump has also maintained his support of Jackson, but told reporters that he “wouldn’t” stick it out if he were Jackson.

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The White House on Tuesday evening reinforced its support of President Trump physician Ronny Jackson, who faces an arduous battle to become secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs after allegations surfaced this week that Jackson improperly dispensed medications, created a toxic work environment and drank on the job.

White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp appeared on Fox News on Tuesday evening to amplify Jackson and cast doubt on the accusations.

“I mean, these are false allegations. Let’s just start from there,” she told Fox News. “We know for sure that he has not been a target of an IG report. We’ve seen Democrats and Republicans come out in favor of Ronny Jackson. In fact, you had President Obama basically saying that Admiral Jackson was poised under pressure, that he should be promoted. … I just think it’s unfortunate that what we are seeing in these confirmation processes are these very qualified, honorable individuals being dragged through the mud. That needs to stop. Let Dr. Jackson have his hearing.”

Unnamed White House aides also told CNN that Jackson had “improved unit morale” during his time overseeing the White House medical unit and that his record as a physician was “impeccable.” Anonymous White House officials told The Washington Post that they were aware of the allegations against Jackson, but said the claims were overblown. Jackson never gave out narcotics and sometimes gave Ambien to staff and even reporters on long flights, according to the Post’s sources, which also reportedthat Jackson never drank while working at the White House, but may have had too much to drink during an occasional overseas trip.

The White House also released documents that painted Jackson in a positive light on Tuesday evening, like a 2016 note from former President Barack Obama praising Jackson for being “poised under pressure,” according to the Post.

In private meetings with senators on Tuesday, Jackson reportedly denied all of the allegations and has vowed to stick it out — according to sources who spoke with CNN and Reuters — even after Trump offered him an out on Tuesday when he postulated that he wouldn’t put himself through the ringer if he were Jackson.

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Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is set to be the keynote speaker at a St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association prayer breakfast this week. But a spokesperson for  St. Louis County prosecutor questioned whether it was appropriate for the governor, who faces charges for offenses related to computer tampering and taking a nonconsensual nude photo of a woman, to speak at the religious event.

“Chiefs, Are you sure you want a guy currently charged with a felony as your guest speaker?” county prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s spokesperson Ed Magee wrote, according to a copy of the email obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That will not be good press wise.”

Read the full Post-Dispatch report here and TPM’s most recent coverage of the charges lobbed against Greitens here. 

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday said White House physician Ronny Jackson will have to decide whether he wants to move forward with his nomination to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs after allegations of misconduct have surfaced.

During a press conference with French President Emanuel Macron, Trump said he was supportive of Jackson — whom he called “one of the finest people” he’s met — but told reporters that he’s given Jackson an out if he wants it.

“I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago, I said, ‘What do you need this for? This is a vicious group of people that malign,'” he said. “His family, his extraordinary success, great doctor, great everything, and he has to listen to the abuse that he has to — I wouldn’t — If I were him, actually in many ways I’d love to be him, but the fact is I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for?”

In the last 24 hours, Jackson has faced allegations of workplace misconduct, including “excessive drinking on the job” and “improperly dispensing meds,” according to sources who spoke with CBS. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is currently eying the accusations lobbed against Jackson.

Trump continued, saying “we’ll see what happens” and that the decision to stay in the running for the position was “totally” Jackson’s “decision.”

Trump’s comments come just as the White House offered full-throated support of Jackson and his “record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what’s needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve.”

The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee on Tuesday asked the White House for documents related to Jackson’s service in the White House, as well as any communications between the Defense Department and the White House “regarding allegations or incidents involving” Jackson from 2006 to the present.

Jackson’s confirmation hearing — which was set for Wednesday — has been postponed while the committee reviews the allegations.

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The White House is supporting physician Ronny Jackson as its nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, despite new allegations of workplace misconduct.

“Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement to TPM Tuesday. “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.”

The full-throated support of Jackson comes as the chair and ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sen. John Tester (D-MT), respectively, asked the White House for documents related to Jackson’s service in the White House, as well as any communications between the Defense Department and the White House “regarding allegations or incidents involving” Jackson from 2006 to the present.

The Senate committee is reviewing allegations that have surfaced in the past 24 hours. Former and current White House medical unit staff have reportedly complained that Jackson has held a “hostile work environment” and alleged Jackson has had issues with “excessive drinking on the job” and “improperly dispensing meds.” 

The committee announced on Tuesday it had indefinitely postponed Jackson’s confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday.

Jackson, who was on Capitol Hill Tuesday, told reporters that he was “disappointed” the hearing was delayed and said he was “looking forward” to the hearing getting rescheduled. He cooly dodged questions about the allegations. 

“I’m looking forward to the hearing so we can sit down and I can explain everything to everyone and answer all the senators’ questions,” he said Tuesday, adding that there was “no” inspector general report about the allegations.

President Trump nominated Jackson to run the VA after he fired former Secretary David Shulkin.

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The ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee told reporters Tuesday that the hearing for President Trump’s VA secretary nominee would move forward once the committee concludes whether Ronny Jackson is “fit to serve or not.”

The committee is currently reviewing allegations that were raised “about a week ago” relating to Jackson’s workplace conduct, the ranking Democrat Sen. John Tester (D-MT) said Tuesday. Tester would not confirm the nature of the allegations against Jackson — the White House physician who Trump nominated to run the VA after he fired former Secretary David Shulkin — but said there are “a lot of things we’re looking into.”

In a letter sent to Trump on Tuesday, Tester and Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) asked Trump for “all documentation pertaining to Rear Admiral Jackson’s service in the White House Medical Unit and as Physician to the President,” according to NBC. Tester and Isakson also asked for any communication between the Department of Defense and the White House “regarding allegations or incidents involving” Jackson from 2006 to the present.

Responding to questions about whether the White House should have more thoroughly vetted Jackson before nominating him to lead the VA, Tester told reporters that he didn’t know “what process they go though on the vetting.”

“It’s our job to thoroughly vet these candidates, we are doing that,” he said. “Once we come to the conclusion, whether he’s fit to serve or not, then we’ll move forward with the hearing.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), told MSNBC Tuesday that “unsubstantiated allegations” against Jackson had surfaced and said the committee was doing its “due diligence” to investigate.

Several news outlets have reported that current and former staff in the White House medical unit have complained about Jackson for a “hostile work environment.” CBS reported that staffers complained about Jackson for alleged “excessive drinking on the job” and “improperly dispensing meds.” 

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told MSNBC on Tuesday that secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo’s secret meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was a key factor in his decision to embrace Pompeo.

“I think also Pompeo going to North Korea at the behest of the President, some have said this says more about the President than Pompeo, but at the same time, it’s an openness to communication,” he told MSNBC. “We talk about the whole idea of, you know, ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ I think Trump’s is sorta ‘Speak loudly, carry a big stick, but also maybe have an olive branch somewhere out there.’ You’re willing to still have diplomacy.”

Paul was adamantly opposed to Pompeo’s nomination a week ago, announcing in a press conference that he was going to do “everything I can to block” Pompeo, citing Pompeo’s hawkish views on foreign policy, specially as it relates to the war in Iraq. Paul tweeted Monday that he had “received assurances” from Trump and Pompeo that Pompeo sides with Trump in his belief that the war in Iraq was a “mistake” and that “regime change has destabilized the region.”

“I still do believe that the President’s instincts are for less war, less involvement and many of our foreign policy interventions have backfired on us, that’s what I’ve been saying,” Paul said Tuesday. “What I’ve been doing is trying to push to make sure there are voices around him that actually agree with the President on that.”

Last week, The Washington Post was first to report that Pompeo quietly met with Kim to prepare for a meeting between Trump and Kim within the next few months. The meeting took place over Easter weekend, just after Pompeo was nominated to replace fired former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

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President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs’  confirmation hearing has been delayed as senators probe “hostile work environment” allegations against him, according to several reports.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, Sen. John Tester (D-MT) is reviewing allegations against Trump’s nominee, White House physician Admiral Ronny Jackson, according to reports from Politico, CNN, CBS and The Washington Post.

Sources who spoke with CBS said current and former White House medical staffers have accused Jackson of “excessive drinking on the job, improperly dispensing meds.” Tester told CNN that the allegations against Jackson would be troubling “only if true.” Tester has reportedly called for the hearing to be delayed, according to CBS.

The Associated Press and the Post previously reported that senators were mulling delaying Jackson’s confirmation hearing in order to discuss his lack of experience running an agency as large as the VA. The hearing was originally set for Wednesday, but the timing is now uncertain, according to the Post and Politico.

Republicans and Democrats on the committee spoke about the allegations over the weekend and met in person on Monday to discuss whether the accusations would derail Jackson’s nomination, according to Politico. Sen. Tom Tillis (R-NC) told Politico that the discussions were mostly “conversational” and that the hearing may be “pushed back pending a review of some of this stuff that,  like I said, I’ve only heard on a conversational basis. I think that’s where we’ll spend our time this week.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal told several outlets that the allegations will require “very close and careful scrutiny.”

“There’s a need for very exacting and close scrutiny and vetting,” he said. “And some questions that need to be answered. I’m not going to comment on any of the specifics, except to say we’re going to be doing very close and careful scrutiny.”

Trump nominated Jackson to run the VA after he fired former secretary David Shulkin, who was ousted after facing allegations of expensive travel and misconduct by at least one of his staffers.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on-camera press briefing at 1:00 p.m. ET Monday. Watch live below:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) broke with Demcorats on Monday and announced he would support Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state when the nomination is moved to the Senate floor for a vote.

Manchin cited Pompeo’s “foreign policy perspectives,” his time as head of the CIA and his “exemplary career in public service” as rationale for his support, a move most Democrats have indicated they won’t make.

Heading into a key Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote Monday, Democrats on the committee indicated their opposition to Pompeo’s nomination, even Democrats who voted in favor of Pompeo’s appointment to run the CIA last year. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has already said he would not support Pompeo to run the State Department.

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) announced last week that she would also back Pompeo.

While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may not have the votes it needs to give a positive recommendation of Pompeo, the full Senate is still expected to consider Pompeo’s nomination later on this week.

Machin’s backing follows outcry of obstruction from White House spokespeople and President Trump himself Monday morning, following reports of uncertainty over whether Pompeo would be approved.

Early Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told “Fox and Friends” that Democrats will have to “decide whether they love this country more than they hate this President.” Trump followed up with a tweet, calling Democrats “obstructionists.”

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