Vice President Mike Pence’s physician is the source behind the spurious allegations that led White House physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson to withdraw his nomination for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, investigative journalist Sara Carter reported Monday. Moreover, reports that Jackson is no longer employed as the president’s physician are only partially accurate, Carter reports.
According to four administration officials, the unsubstantiated rumors and accusations targeting Jackson were brought to the attention of Democrats on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs by Vice President Mike Pence’s Army physician Dr. Jennifer Pena. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) shared Pena’s allegations with the media, including charges that Jackson created a hostile work environment, drank on the job, and improperly handed out prescription drugs, including the sleep aid Ambien for overseas trips.
Pena, who is assigned to Pence by the White House Medical Unit, reportedly “has held a long-time grudge against Jackson because of his continuing promotions in the White House.”
She began her career at the White House during the Obama administration. According to the officials, Pena, who is still active military and assigned to the White House Military Office, did not follow proper protocol to report on the allegations. Instead, she went directly to the Senate with the support of some current and former White House medical staff who were her loyalists. None of the allegations she allegedly brought forth have been substantiated.
Democrats on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs claim the bombshell allegations were backed by 23 individuals, but the committee has not released the names of those individuals, Carter notes.
Jackson, who has served in the White House under three administrations, abdicated his role as the president’s physician when he was nominated by Trump for the Veterans Affairs Department, but as Carter reports, he was still working in the White House Medical Unit on Monday.
Current and former officials from the Bush administration and Trump administration have defended Jackson, calling the attacks against his character “flat out wrong and unbelievable,” Carter reported. A number of former Obama administration officials have also pushed back against the smear, along with the U.S. Secret Service, which shot down Tester’s allegations.
“Sen. Tester even admitted that he reviewed the FBI files and there was no derogatory information in there about Jackson but he still spread malicious rumors,” said a Trump administration official. “Certainly we would never nominate anybody who had derogatory information. Pena has had a long-standing feud with Dr. Jackson… she’s very jealous that he’s been consistently promoted. This isn’t about being a whistleblower – there are other procedures for that. She went up to the Hill and she spoke with approximately twenty-five Democrats… she’s a holdover in the White House and didn’t want Jackson to be nominated.”
A senior Trump administration official who knows Jackson told Carter that Jackson “is disgusted that the accusations have carried so much weight with nothing to back them up. This is a vendetta in particular and these false allegations were given to members of Congress then leaked to the press. There is absolutely no merit to any of these stories… he’s disgusted with the whole thing.”
A White House official told Carter that “there is no evidence or documentation of the allegations that Jackson drove drunk and wrecked a government vehicle, quarterly audits don’t show any evidence that Jackson overprescribed medication and there is no evidence or reports of him drinking on the job.”
Regardless of the unsubstantiated nature of the allegations, a media pig-pile on Jackson ensued, leading the doctor to withdraw his name from the nomination last week.
“This is like something like out of the show Madame Secretary,” a former Bush administration official who knows Jackson and served with him in the White House told Carter. “Dr. Jackson was always professional and kind,” said the former Bush official. “I never heard of any of these allegations against him until Pena brought them to Congress. I never saw any evidence of this. It’s tragic what’s happened to him.”
Jackson has endured numerous security clearances and had never had a disparaging report from the FBI, according to Administration officials. Those security clearances require investigators to interview family, friends, former employers, neighbors, current coworkers and even old friends. The months-long investigations can be grueling and investigators ask about everything from that person’s personal habits to possible foreign contacts and connections.
The White House on Friday said officials conducted a thorough review of presidential Jackson’s vehicle records. They only found three minor incidents but there was no evidence supporting a document released by Senate Democrats this week that he “wrecked” a car after drinking at a Secret Service going-away party.
According to this 2010 report about a U.S. Army whistleblower who was retaliated against, Pena was “well-known for her lewd, hypersexual behavior and sexually-explicit comments.” She allegedly leveled a false sexual harassment charge against a doctor who blew the whistle on a poorly run Army hospital at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
Trump angrily called on Tester to resign after the senator’s anonymous allegations were debunked by the Secret Service.
On Fox News’ Hannity Monday night, Carter said the allegations are part of a longtime dispute between Jackson and Pena. She said that there is a good chance Pena will get fired, but it will have to go through the military office.