Report says Ronny Jackson made sexual comments, drank on duty as White House doctor

The Department of Defense inspector general has issued a scathing review of Rep. Ronny Jackson during his time serving as the top White House physician, concluding that he made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care.

The findings outlined in the report, which was obtained by CNN prior to its expected release on Wednesday, stem from a years-long IG investigation into Jackson, who currently represents Texas in the House of Representatives and sits on the House Armed Services subcommittee overseeing military personnel. The probe, launched in 2018, examines allegations that date back to his time serving during the Obama and Trump administrations. Members of Congress were briefed on the IG report findings on Tuesday, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Jackson claimed the report was politically motivated in a statement to CNN on Tuesday, saying the inspector general “resurrected” old allegations against him because he refused to “turn my back on President (Donald) Trump,” who was a vocal supporter of his 2020 congressional bid. He also told CNN he rejects “any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty.”

After interviewing 78 witnesses and reviewing a host of White House documents, investigators concluded that Jackson, who achieved the rank of rear admiral, failed to treat his subordinates with dignity and respect, engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol during two incidents and used sleeping medication during an overseas trip that raised concerns about his ability to provide medical care to the president and other top officials, according to the report.

The report also notes that the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as White House counsel under Trump insisted on being present at all interviews of current White House Medical Unit employees, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.

“We determined that the potential chilling effect of their presence would prevent us from receiving accurate testimony,” the report states, adding that fieldwork stopped for about 10 months, between October 11, 2018, and August 22, 2019, as the Department of Defense inspector general and White House counsel determined whether the White House would invoke executive privilege, which they ultimately did not do.

Ambien and alcohol on trips

Still, the conclusions about Jackson’s conduct are striking. Allegations about his explosive temper and creating a hostile work environment are consistent throughout his time in both the Obama and Trump administrations as an “overwhelming majority of witnesses (56) … who worked with RDML Jackson from 2012 through 2018 told us they personally experienced, saw, or heard about him yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates,” the report says.

“Many of these witnesses described RDML Jackson’s behavior with words and phrases such as ‘meltdowns,’ ‘yells’ for no reason,’ ‘rages,’ ‘tantrums,’ ‘lashes out,’ and ‘aggressive.’ These witnesses also described RDML Jackson’s leadership style with terms such as ‘tyrant,’ ‘dictator,’ ‘control freak,’ ‘hallmarks of fear and intimidation,’ ‘crappy manager,’ and ‘not a leader at all,'” it adds.

On a presidential trip to Manila from April 22, 2014, to April 29, 2014, four witnesses who traveled with then-President Barack Obama and Jackson said that Jackson became intoxicated and made inappropriate comments about a female medical subordinate.

A witness interviewed by the IG said that shortly after arriving in Manila, Jackson began drinking in the hotel lobby, then got into a car with a drink in his hand “to go out on the town.” Another witness said he could smell alcohol on Jackson’s breath later that evening. Back at the hotel, one of the witnesses said he saw Jackson “pounding” on the door of his female subordinate’s room. When she opened the door, Jackson said, “I need you,” and, “I need you to come to my room.”

Witnesses also alleged that Jackson made a comment about a female medical subordinate’s breasts and buttocks during a presidential trip to Asia in April 2014.

Two years later, in Bariloche, Argentina, two witnesses told the IG they saw Jackson drinking a beer while he was serving as the physician to the president and in charge of providing medical care for a presidential trip, despite regulations prohibiting him from 24 hours before the president’s arrival until two hours after he left. Jackson, the witnesses said, dismissed the regulation as “ridiculous.” Another witness said Jackson later smelled of alcohol, though she was unsure if he was drunk. One witness, identified in the report as “Bariloche Witness 5,” said he did not smell alcohol on Jackson during the trip.

These two allegations of alcohol use both occurred under the Obama administration, but the report details a series of incidents under both Obama and Trump in which Jackson lost his temper, cursing at subordinates.

Of the 60 witnesses interviewed by the Defense Department IG about the command climate under Jackson, only 13 had positive comments, while 38 spoke about unprofessional behavior, intimidation and poor treatment of subordinates.

One witness said that Jackson “established a workplace where fear and intimidation were kind of the hallmarks of him, his command, and control of his subordinates.”

At least six witnesses, all of whom were medical personnel, also told investigators that Jackson took Ambien, a prescription medicine used to treat insomnia, on long flights while on duty for providing medical care for government officials, including the president. The witnesses said they were concerned about the Ambien because it often leaves users drowsy and can impair someone’s mental alertness. But the IG report notes there is no specific restriction on the use of Ambien during long flights. It recommends that the White House Military Office put out guidance on the appropriate use of Ambien and similar drugs.

The report did not, however, substantiate an allegation that Jackson had wrecked a government vehicle — a claim that had added to the collapse of his bid to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs under Trump.

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