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Why the new revelations about Ronny Jackson are so striking

Three years ago, Trump said the allegations against Ronny Jackson were "false." The Pentagon inspector general's office says otherwise.
Image: White House, Presidential physician Ronny Jackson answers question about U.S. President Donald Trump's health after the president's annual physical at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S.
White House, Presidential physician Ronny Jackson answers question about U.S. President Donald Trump's health after the president's annual physical during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC on Jan. 16, 2018.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

About three years ago, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician at the time, appeared in the briefing room and was overly effusive in gushing about Donald Trump's health. Describing the then-president's condition, Jackson used the "excellent" eight times, before celebrating the Republican's "incredibly good genes."

Jackson added that if Trump had adopted "a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old," assuring the public that the then-president would remain healthy "for the remainder of another term." (How the physician could see into the future was unclear.)

Almost immediately, Jackson became known as the White House doctor who delivered a cringe-worthy assessment of Trump's health. As of this week, however, Jackson will probably be known for something far worse.

Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, engaged in "inappropriate conduct" while serving as the top White House physician, according to a Pentagon inspector general report obtained Wednesday by NBC News The scathing report, expected to be released later Wednesday, alleges abusive behavior toward subordinates including sexual harassment.

NBC News' report added that the inspector general's review, first reported by CNN, says Jackson "drank alcohol, made sexual comments to subordinates and took the sedative Ambien while working as White House physician." The watchdog also found that Jackson mistreated subordinates and "disparaged, belittled, bullied and humiliated them."

Jackson, two months into his first term as a Republican member of Congress, denied any wrongdoing.

If these allegations seem at all familiar, it's not your imagination. In fact, it's worth taking a stroll down memory lane.

Three years ago this month, Trump announced that he wanted Jackson to join his presidential cabinet as the secretary of Veterans Affairs. Jackson was clearly unqualified, but Trump liked the physician personally, appreciated Jackson's over-the-top praise, and was wholly indifferent as to whether officials on his team were prepared to do the jobs Trump invited them to do.

The process, however, collapsed a month later. There were multiple public reports about Jackson's alleged pattern of substance abuse, harassing women, and creating a "toxic" work environment. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) -- at the time, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee -- said with a record of allegations like this, there was simply no way Jackson could be confirmed. Some Republicans reluctantly agreed.

Trump went a little berserk, lashing out at Tester as a "very dishonest and sick" man who needed to resign from the Senate. (Tester was re-elected later in the year, despite Trump's personal effort to tear him down.) The then-president, pointing to nothing in particular, insisted that the allegations against Jackson were "proving false."

The White House doctor's nomination nevertheless collapsed, and now, according to the Pentagon inspector general's office, it appears the allegations weren't "false" at all.

In theory, the revelations could do real harm to Jackson's new career as a politician, but the Texas Republican currently represents the single reddest district in the United States, so the congressman probably isn't too worried about the electoral fallout.