Apr 24, 2018

Ronny Jackson discusses his plans for the VA with Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin talking on a cell phone. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin hosted a conference call with Ronny Jackson, President Trump's pick for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and West Virginia veterans on Monday to learn more about his plans for the VA, Manchin's Communications Director Jonathan Kott told Axios.

Why this matters: The White House is afraid Jackson won't get confirmed, Axios' Jonathan Swan reported, so this call could be Jackson's last-ditch effort to convince Democrats he's worthy.

The details: Sen. Manchin pitched the call to Jackson to hear his stance on privatization (Manchin is against it) and learn more about his managerial experience (the VA has more than 300,000 employees). A person familiar with the call said Jackson "talked about the fact that he'd be overseeing an agency that his son would be using one day."

  • Manchin also wanted Jackson to answer questions directly from his state's veterans, which were represented by seven different groups on the call.

The backdrop: One of Trump's main campaign promises was to improve veterans' care by allowing more access to private doctors. He's also recently advocated for vets to be able to "run to a private doctor," which could signal he's considering privatizing VA health care.

  • David Shulkin, Jackson's predecessor, didn't support privatization and wanted to take a more moderate approach to health care for the millions of vets in the U.S. He was ousted from his position after serving just over a year.

Between the lines: The conference call with Jackson was a savvy political play for Manchin. Both Democrats and Republicans are skeptical of Jackson, especially after recent allegations of improper conduct. Hosting a call is one way Manchin, a vulnerable Democratic senator, can appear helpful to Trump with little personal cost.

The bottom line: Although Jackson maintains that he doesn't support privatization, Sen. Manchin still has concerns about his stance after the call, according to a person familiar. And simply saying he's against it won't be enough to convince Manchin, who recognizes that Trump could have sway with the nominee.

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Deadly clashes erupt in Delhi ahead of Trump's visit

Rival protesters over the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi, India, on Monday. Photo: Yawar Nazir/ Getty Images

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for calm Tuesday as deadly clashes erupted in the city's northeast between supporters and opponents of India's controversial new citizenship law.

Why it matters: Per the BBC, a police officer and six civilians "died in the capital's deadliest day" since last year's passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act — which allows religious minorities but excludes Muslims from nearby countries to become citizens if they can show they were persecuted for their religion — hours before President Trump and members of the U.S. first family were due to visit the city as part of their visit to India.

Go deeper: India's citizenship bill continues Modi's Hindu nationalist offensive

South Carolina paper The State backs Buttigieg for Democratic primary

Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend Pete Buttigieg speaks at an event in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

South Carolina newspaper The State endorsed former Southbend Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Monday night for the state's Democratic primary.

Why it matters: It's a welcome boost for Buttigieg ahead of Tuesday's Democratic debate in South Carolina and the state's primary on Saturday.

White House requests $2.5 billion to fight coronavirus as U.S. cases rise

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The Trump administration sent a letter to Congress Monday requesting a funding commitment of at least $2.5 billion to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rose to 53.

The big picture: As South Korea and Italy stepped up emergency measures in efforts to thwart the spread of the virus, WHO expressed concern about infections with no clear link to China. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,699 people and infected more than 80,000 others, with all but 27 deaths occurring in mainland China.

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