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White House: We're ready if VA pick withdraws

White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah responds to the allegations against President Trump's pick to lead the Department of Veteran Affairs, telling CNN's Erin Burnett the White House is prepared if he withdraws his nomination.

Posted: Apr 26, 2018 11:15 AM
Updated: Apr 26, 2018 11:15 AM

President Donald Trump is beginning to wonder aloud whether his embattled Veterans Affairs nominee should step aside "before things get worse" and White House aides are now preparing for that possibility, White House officials told CNN.

New allegations of improper behavior against Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, came as a surprise in the West Wing when they were published by Senate Democrats Wednesday afternoon and have left the President and his aides more uncertain about whether Jackson's nomination can move forward, three White House officials said.

While the White House was preparing for the possibility Jackson could withdraw, it was not clear Wednesday evening whether Jackson was leaning toward dropping out or pressing forward.

After meeting with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Jackson returned to the White House.

Jackson emerged late Wednesday from White House spokesman Raj Shah's office with press secretary Sarah Sanders, Shah and deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.

Jackson told reporters, "Look forward to talking to you guys in the next few days."

Sanders said they were having a "debrief" on the meetings on the Hill.

The President and his aides were openly discussing the possibility that Jackson could pull his nomination, the officials said, and aides late Wednesday afternoon began preparing for a possible withdrawal -- though White House officials said the decision remains Jackson's.

Trump's thinking on Jackson's nomination has been rapidly evolving. Earlier on Wednesday, he raised the prospect of going into the briefing room today to stick up for Jackson, simply to say he is a good guy and has his support.

But several senior administration officials, including Sanders, advised him against doing so.

The fresh allegations appeared to change even the President's thinking, who wondered aloud on Wednesday afternoon whether Jackson should step aside now "before things get worse," an official said. Trump was also astonished that few have publicly come to Jackson's defense leading the President to believe Jackson's fate is more perilous than it seemed.

Asked earlier Wednesday evening about CNN's reporting, Shah said aides were "of course" preparing for the possibility that Jackson could withdraw his nomination.

"This is, as the President said, Dr. Jackson's decision," Shah said on "Erin Burnett Outfront." "We stand behind him 100% depending on what he decides to do. We think he'll make a great secretary of Veterans Affairs, but this is a nasty process right now."

Emerging from the White House press secretary's office earlier on Wednesday, Jackson said he would continue to fight on.

"We're still moving ahead as planned," Jackson said, adding denials of several of the fresh allegations, including that he had wrecked a government car after drinking.

But his comments belied the increased skepticism about the fate of his nomination inside the White House. One official conceded the raft of new allegations makes it harder for the White House to provide a defense.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday afternoon released a two-page document summarizing allegations 23 current and former colleagues of Jackson have made against him behind closed doors. Lawmakers have not yet substantiated the claims and are investigating them further, but they included allegations that he was "abusive" to colleagues, loosely handled prescription pain killers and was periodically intoxicated.

Speaking on Capitol Hill Wednesday evening, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short acknowledged the claims of misconduct that surfaced hours earlier caught the administration off guard.

"It appears these allegations were brought to senators and so in some cases all of us are in the dark as to the allegations themselves," said Short, who added he planned to meet with Jackson at the White House on Wednesday evening.

An aide for Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, pushed back against White House criticism Wednesday, telling CNN that each Jackson allegation in the two-page document came from multiple sources.

"Every allegation in that document has been brought to us by more than one source," the Tester aide said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 450762

Reported Deaths: 6079
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin935111486
Ramsey40220742
Dakota33243348
Anoka31118366
Washington20282231
Stearns17957188
St. Louis13777244
Scott1203597
Wright11688106
Olmsted1062075
Sherburne823966
Carver698338
Clay654681
Rice613969
Kandiyohi555772
Blue Earth544833
Crow Wing486877
Otter Tail459367
Chisago455036
Benton421587
Winona391948
Douglas376666
Nobles372446
Mower369429
Goodhue351259
Polk330059
McLeod326546
Beltrami313248
Morrison312945
Lyon303338
Becker286939
Itasca285943
Isanti283241
Carlton282243
Steele275810
Pine267814
Freeborn249523
Todd232530
Nicollet226437
Brown215834
Mille Lacs214745
Le Sueur211716
Cass208424
Meeker200633
Waseca190716
Wabasha17293
Martin171326
Roseau166117
Hubbard149938
Redwood140627
Houston139014
Renville137840
Dodge13624
Chippewa131732
Cottonwood127818
Fillmore12535
Wadena120417
Rock110612
Sibley10897
Aitkin108533
Faribault107416
Watonwan10678
Pennington100315
Kanabec98018
Pipestone95523
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Murray8995
Jackson86310
Swift83818
Pope7425
Marshall70315
Stevens7038
Clearwater68614
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake65615
Wilkin6299
Koochiching59910
Lincoln4892
Big Stone4663
Unassigned43968
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4137
Kittson37220
Red Lake3184
Traverse2553
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 4391
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46313460
Linn17916278
Scott15694167
Black Hawk13964242
Woodbury13064179
Johnson1220051
Dubuque11504157
Pottawattamie9086114
Dallas901872
Story875536
Webster470677
Cerro Gordo469972
Sioux458757
Clinton455065
Warren452039
Marshall429262
Buena Vista395230
Muscatine393078
Des Moines389243
Plymouth352269
Wapello347598
Jasper328559
Lee321132
Marion307252
Jones272949
Henry265831
Carroll257434
Bremer248048
Crawford233124
Washington221333
Boone221017
Benton210950
Mahaska196337
Jackson193931
Tama189559
Dickinson188129
Kossuth177744
Delaware174736
Clay170721
Wright166024
Fayette164123
Buchanan161023
Hamilton161030
Winneshiek159120
Harrison157362
Hardin156130
Cedar154419
Clayton153049
Butler149824
Page145415
Floyd140536
Cherokee139527
Mills138016
Lyon137033
Poweshiek134124
Hancock130824
Allamakee130029
Iowa126722
Calhoun12309
Grundy121927
Jefferson121625
Madison12169
Winnebago120829
Mitchell116436
Louisa115530
Cass114743
Chickasaw113312
Appanoose111540
Emmet111232
Sac111215
Union110223
Humboldt105819
Shelby104027
Guthrie103624
Franklin103118
Unassigned10000
Palo Alto91411
Montgomery87224
Keokuk85826
Howard84819
Monroe81419
Clarke8017
Pocahontas77811
Ida75430
Davis69721
Greene6977
Adair69320
Lucas6619
Monona65017
Osceola64510
Worth6154
Taylor5969
Fremont5206
Van Buren49914
Decatur4944
Ringgold44611
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Wayne41721
Adams2983
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