Trump attacks coronavirus whistleblower before congressional testimony
President Donald Trump launched an angry attack Thursday at Dr. Rick Bright ahead of the whistleblower’s highly anticipated congressional testimony — calling the ousted head of the agency tasked with creating a coronavirus vaccine a “disgruntled employee.”
“I don’t know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him, but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!” the president said in a tweet.
Bright, who was removed from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, plans to testify that the US will face its “darkest winter in modern history” without additional measures to improve the government’s ability to test and trace people infected with COVID-19.
“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” he is expected to tell the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee, according to his prepared testimony obtained by CNN.
“Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history,” according to his statement.
“Science – not politics or cronyism – must lead the way to combat this deadly virus,” Bright is expected to testify.
Last week, Bright filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was ousted in retaliation for opposing the broad use of hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine as cures for the illness.
He will reiterate that he believes he was removed because he “resisted efforts to promote and enable broad access to an unproven drug, chloroquine, to the American people without transparent information on the potential health risks.”
Bright said he warned about the coronavirus in January and was met with hostility from leaders of the US Department of Health and Human Services, who oversee BARDA.
He said last month that the Trump administration has promoted the drugs as a “panacea” even though they “clearly lack scientific merit.”
HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley has disputed Bright’s account, saying he was transferred to a job where he was entrusted to spend around $1 billion to develop diagnostic testing.
“We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor,” Oakley said, according to Reuters.
The Office of Special Counsel has determined there is reason to believe his ouster was retaliatory and is recommending he be reinstated, according to Bright’s attorneys.
Bright’s testimony comes two days after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, warned a Senate committee that a premature lifting of lockdowns could lead to additional outbreaks of the disease.
Trump blocked Fauci from testifying to the Democratic-controlled House.
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