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WATCH: Rick Santorum struggles to explain Trump’s VA nominee mess — and decides it’s Obama’s fault

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Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum fumbled in a Wednesday morning interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo about President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Veterans Administration, Ronny Jackson.

Jackson, who served as the physician on hand for the president, gave Trump a physical and praised the president’s health and fitness in a widely mocked news conference. The president then nominated the physician to head the VA, a government agency Trump has said needs dramatic changes. Jackson has never overseen a vast department, much less an agency.

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“Bad fact,” began Cuomo. “We should not even be having this conversation. The White House should have made phone calls. They should have known what was out there. They should have been ready to push back when it was raised by somebody. Now leaving it up to Democrats but also Republicans. They were asking for this problem.”

Santorum first declared that he doesn’t know how the Trump administration could have known about Jackson’s past problems. It was part of 20 different military members that came forward, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) told CNN Tuesday. The former Pennsylvania senator also tried to argue that Jackson was in a very important position under the Obama administration and that they should have known he was a problem.

“Most of the things he is being accused of happened during the Obama administration with, I suspect, full awareness of the Obama administration,” Santorum alleged. Cuomo noted that the statement is not factually accurate, as such information has not been disclosed. “Maybe somehow they didn’t know and these are just come up. Would they know? You can say vetting, but here’s a man in a position of great power and authority. A personal physician to the president, pretty important position. None of this was known or vetted and certainly not discussed within the on Obama administration.”

He went on to confess that the Trump administration should have vetted Jackson, but then qualified, “I’m not sure they didn’t and maybe these allegations didn’t rise until this thing got out there and all of a sudden people felt maybe some freedom to release this information.” Again, however, Tester noted 20 service members had come forward.

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Cuomo noted that the Obama administration didn’t flag any of this, however, they recommended Jackson for a completely different position. Santorum tried to argue that the position leading the VA was as important as the president’s physician. Cuomo countered that the president can see any doctor, go to any specialist or go to any hospital he wants and isn’t required to only use Jackson. Chairing an entire agency is vastly different.

“In their current responsibility to put him in a position that is without any estimation exponentially more important than what he is right now, they always should make the phone calls,” Cuomo said. “You know you dig into people. The sources that we are hearing from consistently tell us ‘I was not contacted about this. They know that I worked — I expected to be called. I wasn’t called.’ And this is not the first time, right? Context matters. Consistently we were promised the best of the best and consistently they keep putting people in positions of power who don’t seem to be well appointed to it.”

Santorum conceded that the Trump White House should have vetted Jackson.

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Cuomo noted that this is simply more of the same with EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s scandals stacking up. Santorum tried to claim that Pruitt was fine because the “ethics department” said that Pruitt was fine on the $50 sweetheart deal for a condo from an energy lobbyist’s wife.

It is unclear if he’s referring to the Office of Government Ethics, however, former ethics chief Walter Shaub noted that he was shoved out because he had strict ethics rules and it bothered those in the administration. So, they installed their own person to approve the ethics.

Watch the full conversation with Santorum below:

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CNN’s Cuomo hammers GOP lobbyist for saying Trump can fire the inspector general

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," anchor Chris Cuomo pushed back on GOP lobbyist and American Conservative Union director Matt Schlapp for saying President Donald Trump has the right to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson for transmitting the whistleblower complaint.

"Why would it be okay for the president to go after the inspector general for dealing with the whistleblower?" said Cuomo.

"Because he serves at the pleasure of the president. The president can get rid of them at any time," said Schlapp. "At the State Department during Obama's presidency, during the whole time Hillary was at the State Department, he didn't bother to pick an IG."

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CNN

Trump suffers ‘Impostor Syndrome’ on a level ‘previously unknown to man’: Art of the Deal co-author

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," "Art of the Deal" co-author Tony Schwartz broke down President Donald Trump's mental state — and suggested that the president has a subconscious, pathological fear of being exposed as a fraud.

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CNN

White House in ‘chaos’ in advance of public impeachment hearings: report

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," chief White House reporter Jim Acosta broke down how President Donald Trump's administration is in a state of turmoil with hours to go before the public impeachment hearings begin in the House.

"It is a picture of chaos as the president heads into this very different phase for him in the impeachment inquiry, very public phase with officials testifying in front of cameras up on Capitol Hill," said Acosta.

"My colleagues and I over here at the White House are hearing from our sources that when Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, started these legal maneuverings a few days ago, first he would join this lawsuit in federal court that would determine whether or not he should respond to these congressional subpoenas up on Capitol Hill and testify, and then yesterday he decided he's going to pull out of that legal challenge and pose his own legal challenge, file his own lawsuit and then this morning we find out he's scrapping the whole thing altogether and going back to the original legal guidance from the administration that he's immune from testifying under this subpoena that has been issued for his testimony," continued Acosta.

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