HELENA, Mont. — Donald Trump Jr. blasted Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) at a boisterous rally in his home state on Friday, calling him a “piece of garbage” for sinking Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) earlier this year.
Trump Jr., who headlined a rally for Tester’s GOP Senate rival Matt Rosendale and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R), slammed Tester over Jackson’s failed VA nomination, saying the Democratic senator had “ruined this guy’s life” after a bitter confirmation process.
President Trump‘s eldest son accused Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of putting out “all sorts of baseless accusations” on the orders of Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer(N.Y.).
“To go after and try to assassinate with no proof, no basis, no nothing, a good man simply because my father wanted to elevate him and put him in charge of an organization,” Trump Jr. fumed. “When Jon Tester, who is this lap dog, does that, what happened?”
Trump Jr. argued that no proof of the allegations against Jackson has surfaced publicly since his nomination failed in April, adding Tester has yet to pay a political price for taking down the nominee.
“Where’s the accountability to Jon Tester who did that? Because that makes you a piece of garbage in my mind, and it should to all of you and anyone I know in this state,” Trump Jr. said.
“You have the chance to unseat someone who plays the game, he pretends he’s one thing and he does the opposite,” he added, noting that Tester was found to be the top recipient of campaign contributions from lobbyists in Congress for a time.
Tester and Rosendale are locked in a tight Senate battle, with Tester leading his GOP challenger by 4.5 points in the RealClearPolitics polling index with less than two weeks before the election.
Trump Jr. delivered the broadsides against Tester on Friday at a ranch on the outskirts of the city where an enthusiastic crowd wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and holding Trump 2020 signs filled a remodeled barn.
The enthusiastic audience greeted the president’s eldest son with loud cheers and whoops.
Men sporting camouflage hats, an elderly woman in a wheelchair and children with smartphones flocked to the stage at the end of Trump Jr.’s red-meat stump speech to pose for selfies and shake his hand.
Trump Jr. delivered similar comments earlier in the day at a rally in Butte with Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who says he shot Osama bin Laden, remarks showing that Trump’s inner circle is still feeling raw about Jackson’s nomination.
Tester led the opposition against Jackson, who served as White House physician from 2013 to March 2018, when Trump nominated him to head the VA earlier this year.
Jackson’s nomination was torpedoed after former members of the White House medical staff came forward anonymously with a variety of serious allegations, which Tester made public in embarrassing detail.
During an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Tester said “the word is” that on overseas trips Jackson would freely hand out drugs such as Ambien and Provigil, which help people fall asleep and wake up.
“These are called controlled substances for a reason,” Tester said. “That’s the reports we got from the twenty-some people who got a hold of us and said, ‘We have a problem, this doctor has a problem, because he hands out prescriptions like candy.’ ”
“In fact in the White House they call him the candy man,” Tester added.
Jackson eventually withdrew his nomination, but the White House is still looking for revenge over the episode.
The president made a similar attack against Tester when he hosted a rally for Rosendale last week.
Trump at last week’s rally acknowledged that Jackson “might not have been qualified” but praised him as “a doctor at a high level” and “a man that everybody respected.”
Tester also said on CNN that Jackson was allegedly drunk while on duty on overseas trip with then-President Obama.
“Adm. Jackson was the primary health-care provider for the president. If you’re drunk and something happens with the president, it is very difficult to treat the president,” Tester said at the time. “Multiple people told us this was the case on several different trips.”
Tester said that there “were comments” about Jackson being so drunk that he wasn’t able to respond to people who asked him to do things.
He also raised anonymous allegations that Jackson kissed up and kicked down.
“We were told time and time again that people above him he treated like gold and people below him he belittled,” he said.
The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General opened an investigation into the allegations in June.
But Trump Jr. said Jackson never recovered and that Tester “ruined this guy’s life.”
“Where’s the proof?” he asked.
“This is what bothered me the most,” Trump Jr. said of Tester’s record in Washington. “To go out there on TV and attack a good man.”
“That to me is a character flaw.”
BY ALEXANDER BOLTON – 10/26/18