Senior White House officials were in serious discussions with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) this spring to gauge his interest in joining President Trump’s Cabinet as Veterans Affairs secretary after presidential physician Ronny L. Jackson’s nomination imploded, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions.
The White House wooed Manchin, 70, in hopes of clearing the way for Republicans to win his seat in the heavily pro-Trump state, concerned the conservative Democrat was popular enough back home to retain his seat despite the president’s high poll numbers in West Virginia.
No formal offer was made for the VA post, White House and congressional officials with knowledge of the deliberations said. In an interview, Manchin said he viewed the discussions as being about how to find the best person for the Veterans post — not filling the position himself.
He acknowledged speaking with the White House, as well as with Bob McDonald, President Barack Obama’s second-term VA secretary, about the vacancy generally.
The conversations with the White House, he said, were about “basically finding the right person who could fill [the position] with the right qualifications.”
But White House officials