These are serious allegations, but they are so far entirely unproven. Nonetheless, a confirmation hearing scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed.
Though it is not unheard of for damaging information to emerge about a nominee during the confirmation process, presidential administrations have in place a vetting process for reviewing candidates before they are nominated, to ensure that people who might have damaging items in their pasts are either not nominated or are prepared to effectively parry any questions.
In the Trump administration, this has broken down repeatedly. Jackson was reportedly not vetted in any serious way by the White House, and even if had been, the vetting process under this president has repeatedly failed, with the office that vets nominees understaffed and populated with inexperienced employees—some of whom would not pass a vetting process themselves.
Jackson’s nomination came about abruptly. Shulkin was under fire for ethics violations, and Trump decided to remove him suddenly, reportedly over the objections of staffers who wanted a more deliberate process. To replace him, Trump chose someone who was directly in his orbit and he knew; someone he’d seen speak effectively for him in public, in announcing the medical results; and someone who, as an active-duty military officer, was ill-positioned and -inclined to say no to the president of the United States. (This has been a favorite tactic for the president in filling other roles.)
That gave no time to review Jackson’s past. Perhaps Trump assumed that the military would not have promoted Jackson if his past were not clean as a whistle. Yet anyone with a passing familiarity with recent scandals would know that the military, like any large organization, is not immune to bad behavior and cover-ups. The sense of decorum, order, and camaraderie may in fact produce a tendency to sweep issues out of sight.
If the White House didn’t do its prep work ahead of the Jackson announcement, it hasn’t caught up since then, either. The Washington Post reports:
The administration has not put its full weight behind his nomination, according to people familiar with the matter, appointing mid-level aides to oversee Jackson’s briefing by VA experts and sending a junior media aide from the White House to help him make the rounds on Capitol Hill. With the recent departure of Darin Selnick, the White House’s most seasoned expert on veterans’ issues, Trump has few aides with deep knowledge of how the agency works.
Jackson’s surprise stall-out is not the only example of a vetting failure—it’s not even the only one this week. On Monday, Secretary of State-designee Mike Pompeo barely managed to scrape through through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with an endorsement, and he faces a tight vote in the broader Senate. Senators said Pompeo could not answer basic questions about the administration’s foreign policy, and the government also allowed multiple, inaccurate claims that he had fought in the Gulf War to go uncorrected.