News & Politics

Pence Doctor Resigns Amid Fallout Over Dr. Ronny Jackson

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump's choice to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Vice President Mike Pence’s physician, Army Dr. Jennifer Pena, has resigned from the White House, investigative journalist Sara Carter reported Friday, citing several senior administration officials. Pena 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 last week.

Pena apparently violated protocol by bringing a number of serious allegations to the attention of Democrats on the Committee on Veterans Affairs, including charges that Jackson created a hostile work environment, drank on the job, improperly handed out prescription drugs, and wrecked a government vehicle after leaving a Secret Service party.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester passed the unverifed rumors on to a number of friendly media outlets, which went on to pummel Jackson with an onslaught of negative stories.

Jackson has denied all of the allegations.

Tester claimed that the allegations against Jackson were supported by 23 people, but refused to release the names of the people. The Secret Service last week debunked the senator’s anonymous allegations.

“Over the last 48 hours, media outlets have alleged that U.S. Secret Service personnel were forced to intervene during a presidential foreign travel assignment in order to prevent disturbing (former) President Barack Obama,” the Secret Service said in a press statement Friday. “The Secret Service has no such record of any incident; specifically, any incident involving Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson.”

According to Carter’s sources, Pena quit on Wednesday, telling “colleagues in the White House Medical Unit that she was resigning and moving on.” She left the White House on Friday, they said.

The White House Medical Unit and White House Military Office had assigned Pena to be the vice president’s physician.

Enraged over Tester’s role in derailing Jackson’s nomination, Trump called on the senator to resign. In a tweetstorm over the weekend, the president also encouraged Montanans to vote him out of office in November:

Alyssa Farah, press secretary for Pence, said: “The Vice President’s office was informed today by the White House Medical Unit of the resignation. Physicians assigned to the Vice President report to the White House Medical Unit and thus any resignation would go entirely through the Medical Unit, not the Vice President’s office.”

An administration official cast doubt on Tester’s claim that Pena’s allegations were backed up by 23 people, Carter reported:

Pena, along with several others, went to the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee to complain about Jackson, according to Administration sources. The 23 other people Tester referred to were contacted by phone when investigating the claims against Jackson. In fact, according to one administration official, those called were “asked very leading questions, others never returned phone calls to the Senate or were unavailable to talk, so it’s really not sure how many people were actually contacted and what they said.”

“Even more perplexing is the false allegation that Jackson wrecked a government vehicle under the influence and there is no evidence that this ever occurred,” stated the official, who knows Jackson.

Several White House officials told Carter on Monday that Pena had a longstanding grudge against Jackson and was jealous of his continuing promotions inside the West Wing. Pena began her career at the White House during the Obama administration. Last week, someone leaked three of her personal memos regarding an incident involving Second Lady Karen Pence and Jackson to CNN:

Pena accused Jackson of violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, when he treated the Second Lady last year on a trip at Camp David. As stated by CNN it is the only documentation accusing Jackson of any wrongdoing, however, it came from the same colleague who had reported the unfounded allegations against him to the Senate.

According to the CNN, which did not disclose Pena’s name, the Vice President’s physician accused Jackson “of overstepping his authority and inappropriately intervening in a medical situation involving the Second Lady as well as potentially violating federal privacy rights by briefing White House staff and disclosing details to other medical providers — but not appropriately consulting with the Vice President’s physician.” The CNN article stated that on Sept. 11, 2017, Pena briefed Ayers about “this breach of her patient information.” She argued that Jackson violated HIPAA laws by disclosing information to others.

However, Administration officials familiar with the situation told this reporter that the real violation appears to be the leaking of the memos to CNN and disclosing the medical condition to the public. According to those sources, Jackson’s role in treating the Second Lady was done out of concern because Pena was not capable of treating her or assessing the situation as she was three hours away from Camp David at the time. They noted that Jackson who had to use presidential “assets” was responsible for informing the White House of those details.

Jackson provided medical care for the Second Lady and then had to notify Chief of Staff John Kelly that they needed to use the “assets” and why it was necessary, the officials stated.

Farah told Carter on Tuesday that Ms. Pence “has been briefed on all the facts related to a private matter regarding her health care. She is grateful for the professional care she received from all White House medical personnel who resolved the matter quickly. She considers the matter closed and has no further comment on the situation.”

Jackson has returned to work in the White House, but is no longer Trump’s physician.  That position was filled by Sean Conley, another Navy officer, according to Politico.