VA nominee Jackson was 'unprofessional' in power struggle with rival, 2012 watchdog report says

Dr. Ronny Jackson, President Trump's pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, previously exhibited "unprofessional behaviors" amid a power struggle over the White House medical unit, according to a 2012 report by the Navy's Medical Inspector General.

A person who viewed the report confirmed to Fox News that the watchdog had recommended the Obama administration consider replacing either Jackson or his rival, Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman -- or both. The report was initially reviewed by The Associated Press.

President Barack Obama speaks with Dr. Ronny Jackson in the Outer Oval Office, Feb. 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)..This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House..

Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman talks to President Barack Obama in this undated photo.  (White House)

At the time of the report, Kuhlman was the physician to the president, while Jackson was the director of the White House Medical Unit. Kuhlman left the White House in July 2013 and Jackson was named his successor as physician to the president.

News of the report broke hours after President Trump told reporters that if he were Jackson, "I wouldn't" continue to seek the position, amid allegations that Jackson has overseen a hostile work environment as White House physician, including claims of drinking on the job and allowing the overprescription of drugs.

However, a senior White House official indicated Tuesday evening that Jackson would not withdraw his nomination.

"Dr. Jackson’s record as a White House physician is impeccable. He has improved unit morale, received glowing reviews and promotions under Republican and Democrat presidents, and has been given a clean vet from the FBI," the official said. "He has never even been the subject of an Inspector General review and he will certainly not be railroaded by a bitter ex-colleague who was removed from his job."

The six-page report included no references to improper prescribing or the use of alcohol. However, it did describe a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members. The document described the working environment as akin to "being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce."

Ronny Jackson 2012 IG report

The Navy's Medical Inspector General report recommended that one or both of Jackson or Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman be replaced.  (John Roberts)

"There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on 'eggshells,"' the report found.

According to the report, Jackson admitted he had failed to shield the White House medical unit from the leadership drama. He was quoted saying he was willing to do what was necessary to straighten out the command, even if it "meant finding a new position in Navy Medicine."

The report stated that the "vast majority" of those interviewed said Kuhlman had "irrevocably damaged his ability to effectively lead."

It added that "many also believe that CAPT Jackson has exhibited poor leadership," but attributed those failures to the relationship with Kuhlman.

The report quoted unnamed members of the White House medical unit who, while participating in a focus group, used phrases like "Worst command ever," "No one trusts anyone" and "The leaders are child-like."

Jackson's confirmation hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday, but has been postponed.

A senior White House official told Fox News that Jackson met with Trump Tuesday afternoon. The official said Jackson and Trump had a "good meeting," but did not elaborate.

Fox News' Judson Berger, Jennifer Griffin and Serafin Gomez contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.