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Obama’s former aides angry, hurt over Ronny Jackson’s embrace of Trump’s conspiracies

UPDATED: Thu., May 14, 2020

White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson speaks to reporters Jan. 16, 2018, during the daily press briefing in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, in Washington. Jackson, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead Veterans Affairs withdrew April 26, in the wake of late-surfacing allegations about over-prescribing drugs and poor leadership while serving as a top White House doctor, saying the “false allegations” against him have become a distraction. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson speaks to reporters Jan. 16, 2018, during the daily press briefing in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, in Washington. Jackson, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead Veterans Affairs withdrew April 26, in the wake of late-surfacing allegations about over-prescribing drugs and poor leadership while serving as a top White House doctor, saying the “false allegations” against him have become a distraction. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
By Colby Itkowitz Washington Post

Former Obama officials expressed anger and a sense of betrayal after one-time White House doctor Ronny Jackson echoed President Donald Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about their former boss, President Barack Obama.

The retired Navy admiral, who served as the physician to the president under presidents George W. Bush, Obama and Trump, released a lengthy statement Thursday doubling down on a tweet he’d sent the day before calling Obama, and people who worked for him, “a Deep State traitor” who “deserves to be brought to justice for their heinous actions.”

Jackson’s comments followed a tirade of tweets from Trump proclaiming “Obamagate,” over unsubstantiated claims that the Obama administration was working to take down Trump. Jackson accused his former boss of weaponizing “the highest levels of our government to spy on Trump.”

“I will never apologize for standing up to protect America’s national security interests and constitutional freedoms, even if that means triggering liberals and the ‘mainstream media,’ ” Jackson said in his statement.

Former Obama officials who worked with Jackson in the White House reacted with surprise and hurt that their former colleague was embracing Trump’s conspiracy, which he has called “the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA” and “worse than Watergate” – though he’s been short on specifics, telling reporters who asked Monday, “You know what the crime is.’”

“During my time in the White House Ronny L. Jackson was my colleague, my friend and my doctor. I thanked him in my book for his good care,” tweeted Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s one-time deputy chief of staff. “His comments yesterday and today leave me confused, angry, and heartbroken. I don’t recognize this version of Ronny at all.”

Others struggled to square Jackson’s rhetoric with the person who they say was once friends with Obama and his team.

“Ronny L. Jackson palled around with us Deep State Traitors for 8 years and did nothing but smile and say kind things about Barack Obama, who made him an Admiral,” Jon Favreau, Obama’s one-time speechwriter, wrote on Twitter.

One of Favreau’s podcast co-hosts on “Pod Save America,” former Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor, also referenced Jackson’s friendship and accused him of adopting Trump’s conspiracies for political purposes.

“Ronny L. Jackson was friends with Obama and his entire staff,” Vietor tweeted. “I never heard him make a partisan statement. So it’s really been sad to watch him debase himself by lying for Trump … to win a Congressional primary. Truly shameful.”

Jackson left his White House post after 12 years in 2018, and shortly afterward, Trump nominated him to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Jackson withdrew amid mounting allegations of professional misconduct.

Trump took a liking to Jackson after the doctor answered questions from reporters following the president’s first physical exam at the White House. Jackson gave a fawning report of Trump’s mental and physical health, telling reporters “that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.”

Jackson is now running for Congress as a Republican in Texas. He ran in a crowded primary where no candidate received a majority of the vote, so he and the other top vote-getter are competing in a runoff election May 26 to determine who runs in November. Trump has endorsed Jackson in the race.

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