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New Allegations Emerge Against Ronny Jackson as White House Digs In

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY via THE NEW YORK TIMES) – Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, provided “a large supply” of Percocet, a prescription opioid, to a White House military office staff member, throwing his own medical staff “into a panic” when the medical unit could not account for the missing drugs, according to a summary of questionable deeds compiled by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

A nurse on his staff said Dr. Jackson had written himself prescriptions, and when caught, he asked a physician assistant to provide the medication. And at a Secret Service going away party, the doctor got intoxicated and “wrecked a government vehicle,” according to the summary.

The two-page summary fleshes out three categories of accusations — prescription drug misuse, hostile work environment and drunkenness — that threaten to derail President Trump’s nominee. It details the testimony of 23 current and former colleagues of Dr. Jackson, many of whom are still in the military.

White House officials on Wednesday ratcheted up their public defense of Dr. Jackson, calling charges of workplace misconduct leveled against him “outrageous” even as new incidents of questionable conduct surfaced.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters that Dr. Jackson had been the subject of at least four background investigations, including by the F.B.I., during his time at the White House. None, she said, had turned up areas for concern, and Dr. Jackson had drawn praise from colleagues and presidents in each.

“None of those things have come up in the four separate background investigations that have taken place,” she said, referring to the recent allegations. “There’s been no area of concern that was raised for Dr. Jackson specifically.”

But when pressed, Ms. Sanders said she could not comment on the credibility of specific charges.

“These are new,” she said. “I can only speak to some of the personal accounts that those of us have, as well as the records that we have that are substantiated through a very detailed and thorough background investigation process.”

Among those new charges she did not address: During an overseas trip by the Obama administration in 2015, Dr. Jackson went out drinking, came back to the delegation’s hotel and began banging on the door of a staff member’s hotel room, according to an account shared with the senior Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Jon Tester of Montana. The noise was so loud that members of the Secret Service came to see what was happening and warned Dr. Jackson to be quiet so he would not wake up the president, who was staying nearby.

The episode was first reported by CNN.

Members of the Veterans Affairs Committee continued to investigate claims brought by more than 20 people who have worked with Dr. Jackson, including current and former military personnel, that as the head of the White House medical unit he oversaw a hostile work environment, improperly dispensed prescription drugs and was possibly intoxicated at times while traveling with the president.

Dr. Jackson had been scheduled to testify before the Senate committee on Wednesday, but its top Republican and Democrat announced on Tuesday that the session would be postponed to allow more time to investigate the claims.

Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the committee’s chairman, said on Wednesday that he intended to hold a confirmation hearing for Dr. Jackson, but would first need to receive documents that he and Mr. Tester requested on Dr. Jackson’s time at the White House. To speculate on the nominee’s fate before then, he said, would be unfair.

“He deserves a hearing and he’s going to get it,” Mr. Isakson said.

An aide to Mr. Tester said on Wednesday that other former colleagues of Dr. Jackson had reached out to the committee to share stories since details of its investigation became public. Other stories the committee had already collected continued to seep into public view.

On another trip during Barack Obama’s presidency, White House staff members reached out to Dr. Jackson for medical reasons but found him passed out in his hotel room after a night of drinking, Tester aides said. The staff members took the medical supplies they were looking for without waking Dr. Jackson.

The White House’s pushback — both in public and behind the scenes — was targeted toward the general allegations and not specific episodes, many of which appear to have occurred during the Obama administration.

Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director, told reporters that the White House would be requesting a confirmation hearing. Dr. Jackson told reporters in brief comments on Tuesday that he was looking forward to testifying to answer the charges against him.

Mr. Short pushed back against assertions that Dr. Jackson had casually doled out prescription drugs. Mr. Tester said that he had received numerous allegations that Dr. Jackson regularly distributed Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, to members of the White House staff and members of the news media flying on long overseas trips, as well as another prescription drug to promote wakefulness.

“Every year they come in and they do a review of the White House physician’s office on things like prescriptions,” Mr. Short told reporters. “And every year, they’ve said that he’s totally in compliance with what he’s been prescribing.”

On Capitol Hill, some Republican senators worried that Dr. Jackson was being asked to account for anonymous accusations that had not yet been fully vetted. Others were still awaiting access to the more detailed charges collected by Mr. Tester and others on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

“For us to hound somebody out just because somebody can make an accusation strikes me as unfair,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber.

Mr. Cornyn defended Dr. Jackson’s reported distribution of Ambien and other drugs during long trips as nothing out of the ordinary. He said that because Dr. Jackson was a doctor, it was not a problem that he distributed the drugs, even without writing a prescription.

“On overseas travel, yeah, sure, people take Ambien to help them transition through time zones,” he said. “It’s pretty common, I’m led to believe.”

Still, some Democrats privately wondered if the allegations, on top of existing concerns that Dr. Jackson lacked the experience to lead one of the federal government’s largest and most troubled departments, would be enough to cut his nomination short.