Political News

White House Says Records Don’t Match Accusation Against Jackson

Posted April 27, 2018 11:06 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — The White House challenged reports that Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the president’s doctor, had been involved in a drunken driving crash, citing on Friday what it said was a thorough review of vehicle incident reports conducted by administration officials.

On Wednesday, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., released a list of accusations against Jackson, including a claim that he had “wrecked” a government car after getting drunk at a Secret Service goodbye party. At the time Tester released the list, Jackson was President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jackson denied the allegations, but later withdrew from consideration for the Cabinet post amid a torrent of other, mostly anonymous, accusations, including accounts that he loosely distributed drugs to White House officials and was a bully to his staff in the White House medical unit.

Raj Shah, a deputy White House press secretary, said Friday that after Tester’s accusations, officials searched all of the government databases that contain records of accidents involving government vehicles, including at the General Services Administration. He called it a “comprehensive search” for any crashes involving Jackson and a government vehicle.

Shah said the search revealed three episodes, none of which resembled the crash described by Tester.

In one episode, Shah said Jackson was rear-ended, resulting in a fender bender. In another, a bus sideswiped a side mirror on Jackson’s car, according to Shah. The third case was an episode of road rage, Shah said, in which another person punched through a window on Jackson’s car.

None sounded like the accusation contained in the document distributed by Tester: “At a Secret Service going-away party, Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle.” That allegation was widely reported by news organizations at the time as lawmakers from both parties expressed concern and indefinitely delayed Jackson’s confirmation hearing.

A spokeswoman for Tester declined to comment Friday night.

It was not clear whether the White House’s records search might have missed an episode like the one on Tester’s list of accusations, or if such an episode might have gone unreported. But White House officials said it would be inconceivable for serious damage to a government vehicle to escape notice and not be recorded.

On Friday, Shah echoed earlier comments by Trump criticizing Tester — and the news media — for distributing anonymous accusations about the doctor.

“Senator Jon Tester engaged in character assassination against a decorated rear admiral in the United States Navy, and he didn’t have a shred of evidence to back it up,” Shah said.