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White House doctor Ronny Jackson withdraws as VA secretary nominee

WASHINGTON — White House doctor Ronny Jackson is withdrawing from consideration as Veterans Affairs secretary. Jackson says “false allegations” against him have become a distraction.

The White House sent out a statement from Jackson Thursday morning. He says he “did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.”

Jackson has faced a series of accusations about his workplace conduct, including that he recklessly prescribed drugs and exhibited drunken behavior.

President Donald Trump praised Jackson, and says there will be consequences for the Democratic senator who led the charge against Jackson.

In a phone interview with “Fox & Friends” Thursday, Trump says Jackson “would have done a great job,” but that he saw where his nomination was going.

Trump says he told Jackson, a Navy vice admiral: “Welcome to Washington. Welcome to the swamp. Welcome to the world of politics,”

Trump places the blame on Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, whose office issued a report Wednesday listing allegations it had gathered about Jackson’s work as White House doctor. Trump says: “I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana.”

Trump says he has an idea for a replacement nominee, adding it will be “someone with political capability.”

Conversations with 23 of Jackson’s current and former colleagues at the White House Medical Unit uncovered accusations of misconduct including crashing a government vehicle while intoxicated and doling out such a large supply of a prescription opioids that staffers panicked because they thought the drugs were missing, according to Democratic staff on the committee considering his nomination as secretary.

Trump chose Jackson to head the VA last month after abruptly firing Obama administration official David Shulkin.

Jackson was a surprise choice who has worked as a White House physician since 2006. He faced immediate questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers about whether he had the experience to manage the VA, the federal government’s second-largest department after the Department of Defense, which has 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans.

In just a matter of days, the allegations transformed Jackson’s reputation as a celebrated doctor attending the president to an embattled nominee accused of drinking on the job and over-prescribing drugs.