Trump attempts to smear coronavirus whistleblower after complaint released: 'I hear bad things about him'

'He seems like a disgruntled employee that's trying to help the Democrats win an election,' president says of coronavirus whistleblower

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Wednesday 06 May 2020 22:32
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Removed US coronavirus vaccine director files stunning whistleblower complaint claiming warnings were ignored

Donald Trump took a shot at his former health adviser Rick Bright, who filed a whistleblower complaint earlier this week after the White House booted him from his position leading the search for a Covid-19 vaccine last month.

"I never met Dr. Bright. I don't know who he is. I didn't hear good things about him. I did not hear good things about him at all. To me, he seems like a disgruntled employee that's trying to help the Democrats win an election," Mr Trump said on Wednesday.

Since 2016, Mr Bright had led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). He was demoted in April to a position at the National Institutes of Health.

Mr Bright's whistleblower complaint outlines how his early warnings about coronavirus largely fell on deaf ears at Mr Trump's White House and alleges that he was demoted after cautioning against the Health and Human Services Department's intention to recommend doctors prescribe patients the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to fight Covid-19 symptoms.

"His efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency and to expose practices that posed a substantial risk to public health and safety, especially as it applied to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, rankled those in the Administration who wished to continue to push this false narrative," Mr Bright's complaint reads.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration cautioned against using hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for Covid-19 outside of a hospital setting or a clinical trial "due to risk of heart rhythm problems."

Mr Trump did not pull punches in his criticism of Mr Bright on Wednesday, though he did not offer specifics on what Mr Bright did to earn his ire other than showing disloyalty.

"They didn't think he did a very particularly good job, as I understand," Mr Trump said of Mr Bright on Wednesday.

"He's a disgruntled guy. And I don't think disgruntled people should be working for a certain administration," he said.

Mr Trump took a dig at Mr Bright's legal team.

"If you look at his lawyers, his lawyers are the same as other people have used," Mr Trump said.

One of Mr Bright's lawyers, Debra Katz, previously represented Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychiatrist who accused Supreme Court Justice of sexual misconduct at a party when they were teenagers.​

Mr Bright's lawyers argued in the complaint that his ouster from HHS is in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, since he was allegedly booted after "numerous instances of protected activity."

Wednesday was not the first time Mr Trump has denigrated a whistleblower. The president has repeatedly criticised the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint about the administration's policy for Ukraine eventually led to his impeachment.

Earlier this year, Mr Trump removed intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who handed over the Ukraine whistleblower's complaint to Congress, which kicked off the impeachment probe.

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