President Donald Trump unleashed his wrath on Montana Sen. Jon Tester Thursday for leading the charge against Ronny Jackson, the president’s pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Jackson, who has served as the president’s personal physician since George W. Bush was in office and is a rear admiral in the Navy, withdrew his name from consideration for the VA post amid allegations compiled by Democrats on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee that he had been drunk on the job on multiple occasions and had garnered the nickname “Candyman” for his excessive prescribing practices.
“For Jon Tester to start bringing up stuff like ‘Candyman’ and the kind of things he was saying and then say, ‘Well, you know, these are just statements that are made,’ there’s no proof of this. And [Jackson] has a perfect record,” the president said in a phone interview with “Fox & Friends.”
Trump predicted Tester, the ranking Democrat on the VA committee, would face consequences in his re-election campaign in November after the senator’s office released a summary of charges made anonymously against Jackson by 23 of his current and former colleagues.
Watch: Trump Stands Behind VA Pick, But Says ‘I Wouldn’t Do It’
Tester will have a “big price to pay in Montana,” the president said in his Fox interview.
“I love them, and they love me,” Trump said of Montana voters.
“I think this is going to cause him a lot of problems in his state,” he said of Tester, a Democrat trying to hold on to his seat in a state the president won by 21 points in 2016. “The admiral is the kind of person that [Montanans] like and admire. ... He took a man who was just an incredible man, respected by President [Barack] Obama … President [George W.] Bush.”
Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale is the front-runner in the Republican primary to challenge Tester.
“Jon Tester took a highly respected man by Presidents Trump, Obama, and Bush and personally led the Democrat attack to destroy Ronny Jackson and fight President Trump,” Rosendale said in a statement Thursday. “He keeps promising Montanans he'll work with the President, but instead he's giving us a load of manure.”
In a statement, Jackson denied the allegations against him.
“Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity,” he said.
But he said he decided to withdraw the nomination because allegations had become a distraction for the president.
“The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years,” Jackson said.
Tester commended the 23 anonymous sources, many of whom currently work in the military, for stepping forward to address Jackson’s alleged shortcomings.
“I want to thank the servicemembers who bravely spoke out over the past week, the Montana senator said in a statement Thursday. “It is my Constitutional responsibility to make sure the veterans of this nation get a strong, thoroughly vetted leader who will fight for them.”
Jackson has returned to his post running the White House Medical Unit, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Thursday.