Despite a very public feud against Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), President Donald Trump is privately fuming over Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and his involvement in the downfall of the president's nomination to the Veterans Administration, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee as a whole obtained the information that led to the downfall of White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, who Trump nominated to replace his fired predecessor David Shulkin.
Tester went on CNN to talk about Jackson handing out so many drugs to staff he became known as “The Candy Man,” which is problematic in light of addiction rate for veterans, and Tester is the only lawmaker who has drawn the ire of the president.
At a speech in Michigan on Saturday, Trump fired a warning shot of vague innuendo by claiming he had information on Tester that would prevent his re-election. He railed against Tester for destroying the career of the physician that gave him a clean bill of health and touted his excellent genes. The problem, however, is that Tester has the full support and agreement of the Republicans on the committee, who also recognize the concerns stacking up against Jackson.
Privately, however, Trump is angry that Isakson didn’t give the White House a heads up. In wake of Tester’s interviews, White House staff took to the phones demanding answers from GOP officials.
Both congressional staff and Veterans Affairs sources told The Daily Beast that Tester was in close communication with his Republican colleagues during media appearances. There was also an "implicit understanding" that Tester would be the leader to address the allegations and the committee's investigation into Jackson. Isakson and other Republican leaders didn't want to start and inter-party conflict.
“They were trying to train Trump but they didn’t have the balls to stand up to him,” said one top-ranking Democrat privately.
Meanwhile, White House staff assume that Isakson didn't warn them because he was miffed Trump didn't nominate his recommendations and picked Jackson instead. The Georgia senator has a good relationship with acting secretary Tom Bowman, who served as Shulkin's deputy prior to the march fallout.
One senior White House official, however, conceeds that none of this would have happened if the West Wing had done their job to begin with.
“None, none, of this would have happened if the president and others hadn’t foregone an actual vetting process,” the official sadi. “[Jackson] would still have his reputation.”