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Trump asks senator to resign over opposing veterans post’s nominee

The White House presented documents to reporters from an administration official who claims they exonerate Jackson from the accusations of inappropriately dispensing medication and crashing a government vehicle after a Secret Service going away party. 

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Donald Trump, Wikimedia Commons

U.S. President Donald Trump called for the resignation Saturday of Democratic Senator Jon Tester for raising concerns about Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday.

Jackson, who is the White House physician and a Navy Rear Admiral, dropped his bid Thursday to head the country’s second-largest federal agency as lawmakers probed allegations of professional misconduct and excessive drinking.

In a pair of tweets, Trump wrote the allegations “are proving false” and that Tester, who represents the western state of Montana, should step down.

Also Read: US Lawmakers Demand To Change The CEO Of Facebook

Trump blamed Tester for the demise of Jackson’s nomination after Tester said Wednesday that 20 current and former members of the military familiar with Jackson’s office had told lawmakers that he drank on the job. They also said Jackson oversaw a toxic work environment and handed out drug prescriptions with little consideration of a patient’s medical background.

Jackson said if the allegations “had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years. Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.”

Jackson gained a degree of fame unusual for White House physicians earlier this year when he took questions from the White House press corps on national television, describing at length about Trump's health after conducting the president's physical exam.
Jon Tester, wikimedia common

The White House presented documents to reporters from an administration official who claims they exonerate Jackson from the accusations of inappropriately dispensing medication and crashing a government vehicle after a Secret Service going away party.

Jackson was fast losing support in Congress.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers indefinitely postponed Jackson’s scheduled Wednesday confirmation hearing as they investigated the allegations.

Several news outlets reported that Jackson was known as the “candy man” for over-prescribing drug prescriptions, while CNN said that in one 2015 incident Jackson drunkenly banged on the hotel room door of a female employee in the middle of the night on an overseas trip. The U.S. Secret Service intervened to stop Jackson, according to the report, so then-President Barack Obama, sleeping in another hotel room, would not be awakened.

Jackson gained a degree of fame unusual for White House physicians earlier this year when he took questions from the White House press corps on national television, describing at length about Trump’s health after conducting the president’s physical exam.

Also Read: Tensions grow as US bombers fly over the South China sea

Trump, the oldest first-term president in American history, was plagued at the time by questions about his physical health, weight and mental stability. But Jackson gave the president a top rating. “The president’s overall health is excellent,” Jackson declared at the time.

Trump unexpectedly picked Jackson to replace a holdover from the administration of former president Obama, David Shulkin, whom Trump fired. Several lawmakers have complained that the White House did not properly vet Jackson’s background before Trump announced Jackson’s appointment. (VOA)

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U.S. Envoy Advances Peace Talk Efforts In Afghanistan

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process.

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USA, afghanistan, taliban, peace talks, pakistan
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Zalmay Khalilzad, the man responsible for overseeing America’s negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, arrived Tuesday night in Kabul, after making stops in India, the United Arab Emirates, and China. He is expected to visit Islamabad next.

His outreach to regional players continues despite what seems like a setback in talks with the Taliban.

“The [dialogue] process has halted for now so the venue and the date for a future meeting are not known,” a senior Taliban official who is privy to the developments confirmed to VOA earlier this week when asked whether their peace talks with the U.S. were still on track.

Talks scheduled with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia earlier this month were called off by the insurgent group after it came under pressure by the host government to meet with representatives of the current Afghan government.

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, May 2, 2015, site of several past negotioations with the Taliban. VOA

The insurgent group pushed to change the venue to Doha, Qatar, but later canceled those talks as well over disagreements on the agenda.

The last significant round of talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban was held in December in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the host government also took part in that round.

The Afghan government sent a delegation to Abu Dhabi in hopes of joining the talks, but the Taliban refused to meet them.

The group so far has resisted pressure from multiple actors, including the U.S., to meet with the Kabul administration, calling it a “puppet” regime unable to deliver on their demands.

The U.S. goal, according to a statement issued by its embassy in Kabul, is to “encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement.”

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, right in backgroud, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, left in background, meet in Kabul, Nov.10, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad will meet with President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah, and political leaders to “discuss the next steps in U.S. efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the statement added.

 

A feud among Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar also seems to be damaging the process, say various media reports. According to the Reuters news agency, Saudi and UAE diplomats refused to take part in any meeting held in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an unofficial political office. The two countries severed ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing the Gulf state of funding militants – a charge Doha denies.

In December, it was reported that President Donald Trump told the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American military personnel from Afghanistan, which would reduce the U.S. presence in the country by half.

Also Read: Peace Talks With The U.S. Stalled: Taliban

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process. Since then, several rounds of negotiations between the two have been held, albeit without the Kabul administration.

Meanwhile, security in Afghanistan continues to present a major challenge. An attack in Kabul Monday killed several people and wounded dozens of others. (VOA)