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Ronny Jackson Faces Inappropriate Workplace Behavior Allegations


President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs is in trouble. More than 20 military employees have come forward with complaints about Dr. Ronny Jackson's behavior in the workplace. Many on Capitol Hill already had concerns about the White House doctor's lack of management experience, so the latest allegations could further complicate Jackson's confirmation process. Yesterday, President Trump seemed to give Jackson an out if he wanted to take it.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I wouldn't do it. What does he need it for, to be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country? I really don't think, personally, he should do it, but it's totally his. I would stand behind him, totally his decision.

MARTIN: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Remind us about the allegations against Ronny Jackson.

LIASSON: The allegations include that he overprescribed medicine, that he drank excessively while on the job and that he contributed to a hostile work environment, mostly through conflicts with other White House medical staff people.

MARTIN: He has been at the White House for over a decade, through three different administrations. Had any of these issues come up before?

LIASSON: Certainly not in public. As a matter of fact, everything we were hearing about Ronny Jackson from his patients from White House staffers, former presidents was that he was very, very well liked. And this does raise questions about the vetting process that the White House went through to pick him because some of these complaints were documented.

MARTIN: So where does the nomination go from here? I mean, President Trump was like - he clearly still supports him, but at the same time, in that clip we heard, he was giving him space to just walk away.

LIASSON: He was practically inviting him to withdraw, and that's what was so interesting about yesterday. Yesterday, the president said over and over again at that press conference the decision is up to him, but if it were me, I wouldn't do it. I said to Ronny Jackson, why do you need this? But the two of them met later in the day in the Oval Office. Jackson said he still wanted to continue with the nomination. The president said, fine, I support you. And by the evening, White House officials were releasing a lot of supporting documents, glowing reviews from past presidents and a statement saying they felt Jackson was being railroaded by a bitter ex-colleague.

MARTIN: But the confirmation hearing has not yet been rescheduled though, right?

LIASSON: That's right.

MARTIN: OK. So we'll stay tuned on that. Meanwhile, another one of President Trump's Cabinet choices, the man who actually does lead an agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, facing some more heat. He has been under pressure for ethics violations, and that pressure seems to be mounting. What's the latest?

LIASSON: The latest is that one of Pruitt's most-important allies in Congress seems to be wavering a little bit, and that's Senator James Inhofe from Pruitt's home state of Oklahoma. He has said that he wants to see an investigation into the ethical allegations. He says he doesn't know if they're true or not, but he says if they are true, it could have an effect on Pruitt's job.

MARTIN: And that's a big deal because they're close, right?

LIASSON: They're very close. He's not - Inhofe isn't just a conservative from Pruitt's home state. He shares Pruitt's views on the environment. Inhofe believes, as President Trump has also said he believes, that the scientific consensus that humans caused climate change is a hoax. And this means really that Pruitt could be in trouble. It's, of course, up to President Trump. The White House has been hot and cold about Pruitt. And I would say, yesterday, the White House statements about Pruitt were lukewarm.

MARTIN: Another challenge for the administration came down last night. A judge ruled on DACA. These are the protections put in place for people who were brought into this country illegally as children. A judge ruled against the government's plan to end the DACA program. So get us up to speed here.

LIASSON: This is - this means that this was a big blow for the administration. This judge, the third judge to rule against the administration, ordered the government not just to continue the DACA program and renew applications but to actually reopen the program to new applications. The judge in the case called the Trump administration's decision to end DACA, quote, "virtually unexplained and therefore unlawful." He's given the Department of Homeland Security another 90 days to argue its case. It means that eventually, I think, the Supreme Court will have to resolve this. Or Congress could pass a legislative solution, and, of course, they have been unable to do so, unable to make a deal with the administration on how to resolve the DACA issue.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Mara Liasson for us this morning. Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.