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Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State as Embattled VA Nominee Jackson Drops Out

CIA Director Mike Pompeo arrives at the Capitol to brief members of the House Intelligence Committee on May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director Mike Pompeo was confirmed as secretary of State today by a 57-42 vote in the Senate.

Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Doug Jones (R-Ala.) supported Pompeo, along with Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine).

“Based on his experience as CIA Director, an Army officer, a congressman, and his proven leadership on national security matters, he is eminently qualified to serve as our nation’s top diplomat,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) after the vote. “It is a shame that his nomination encountered partisan headwinds at a time when the U.S. and our allies face mounting national security threats. I look forward to working him and I am confident that he will successfully advance U.S. interests abroad, including the promotion of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he voted against Pompeo “because we need someone who will be a check on President Trump’s bellicose nature, not an encourager.”

“After 17 years of war in Afghanistan, 15 in Iraq and decades of huge military budgets, we need a secretary of state who will help bring the nations of the world together in diplomatic efforts to prevent war, not someone who supports never-ending wars,” Sanders said. “We need a secretary of state who will stand up for people of all faiths, sexual orientations and genders, not someone who opposes women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and who promotes religious bigotry. And we need a secretary of state who will address the crisis of climate change, not stymie action on one of the world’s most serious security threats.”

As one of President Trump’s nominees cleared the Senate, another dropped out before even getting to the confirmation hearing stage.

Amid allegations from former and current staffers made to congressional investigators that included inappropriate handing out of pills and drunken behavior, Trump’s nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary withdrew his nomination today.

“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,” White House physician Ronny Jackson said in a statement. “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.”

Jackson said that the “false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes.”

“While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs,” he said.

Trump told Fox this morning after Jackson’s announcement, “Well, I even told him a day or two ago. I saw where this was going.”

“He has a perfect record,” Trump said. “He’s got this beautiful record, unblemished.”

Trump told the hosts that he had an idea about his next VA nominee, vowing it would be “somebody with political capability.”

“Dr. Jackson didn’t go through a careful vet, where some of these things might have been discovered beforehand, and he wouldn’t have had to go through the process he went through. The Veterans Affairs Committee did the right thing, and they didn’t seek to go after Dr. Jackson, people came to them. When people come to them — particularly military folks — with serious and troubling allegations, they have an obligation to investigate it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said today on the Senate floor.

“Dr. Jackson went through a maelstrom, and he should tell his patient, I guess, the president, that he, the president, is what caused this problem by not properly vetting, by making these decisions on the fly, by making sure they don’t count,” Schumer added. “Our obligation above all is not to any one individual, but to the millions of veterans in America.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a news conference today, “I don’t know whether these allegations are baseless or not. I won’t comment on his nomination, other than the fact that he probably did what he thought was in his best interest. I look forward to seeing a new nominee so that we can actually get somebody over at the VA. That’s a really important position.”