White House doctor Ronny Jackson's appointment as secretary of veteran affairs appears to be in jeopardy after the US senate delayed a key vote on his appointment and president Donald Trump implied that Mr Jackson may withdraw from the process.
The senate veteran affairs committee had been due to hold a hearing on his nomination on Wednesday, but it was delayed after allegations emerged that he resided over a hostile work environment as the White House physician and allowed the over-prescription of drugs. Allegations about his drinking habits also resurfaced, the New York Times reported.
Asked about the matter during his press conference with French president Emmanuel Macron, Mr Trump said he stood by Mr Jackson, describing him as a "high quality person". But he said if he was Mr Jackson, he would not want the job.
“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this . . . it’s too ugly and too disgusting,” said Mr Trump. “He is a fine man. I’ll let it be his choice.
“If I was him, the fact is I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for, to be abused by a bunch of politicians who don’t think nicely about his country. I really don’t think personally he should do it, but it’s totally his [decision].”
Glowing health report
Mr Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy, famously gave Mr Trump a glowing health report card as he briefed the media on the results of the president's medical exam earlier in January. Mr Jackson also served as White House doctor under Barack Obama.
He was named as the president's pick to replace David Shuklin as the secretary for veteran affairs, after Mr Shulkin was fired by the president last month.
The deepening controversy over Mr Jackson emerged after a key senate committee backed Mike Pompeo, Mr Trump's nominee, to become the next secretary of state, in a major boost for the president.
The senate foreign relations committee endorsed the current director of the CIA for the position after Rand Paul, a Republican senator who had threatened to block his appointment, decided to endorse the nominee at the last moment.
Mr Paul, who opposes American intervention in Iraq and elsewhere, said he had changed his mind after speaking to the president. "President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilised the region and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan. Having received assurances from president Trump and [CIA] director Pompeo that he agrees with the president on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination," he said in a statement.
The committee vote paves the way for Mr Pompeo’s confirmation when a full senate vote is held this week.
A defeat at the foreign relations committee would have been the first time a nominee for secretary of state had been opposed by the committee.
The controversy over Mr Jackson's appointment comes as the senate prepares to hold a confirmation hearing to assess Mr Pompeo's proposed replacement at the CIA. Gina Haspel, a CIA veteran, is likely to face tough questioning over her role in the use of torture by the agency.