Olivia Troye, who worked as homeland security, counterterrorism and coronavirus adviser to Vice President Pence for two years, said that the administration’s response cost lives and that she will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this fall because of her experience in the Trump White House.
Troye is the first Trump administration official who worked extensively on the coronavirus response to forcefully speak out against Trump and his handling of the pandemic.
She joins a growing number of former officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton and former defense secretary Jim Mattis, who have detailed their worries about what happened during their time in the administration while declaring that Trump is unfit to be president.
The White House dismissed Troye as a disgruntled former employee, minimized her role on the task force and disputed her characterization that the pandemic response has not gone well.
Deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere said Troye’s “assertions have no basis in reality and are flat-out inaccurate” and that “the truth is President Trump always put the well-being of the American people first,” citing the president’s efforts to boost the production of medical equipment, his early recommendations on social distancing and the plan to quickly develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
Troye had an inside view of the White House’s pandemic response, which polls show is hurting the president with voters, and her review of the effort is scathing.
Though Troye played a behind-the-scenes role during her time in the White House, she was a major participant in the task force’s work, attending and helping to organize “every single meeting” it held from February until July, she said.
Troye said that she worked in the administration because she hoped Trump would morph into a stronger leader after a divisive campaign and that she had respect for other Trump officials, such as Pence.
Asked about Troye’s comments later in the day, Pence said he was very proud of the administration’s performance.
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 6.6 million Americans and has killed nearly 200,000 — a toll Troye said has been exacerbated by what she called Trump and his administration’s mishandling of the pandemic and by the conflicting messages he and his top aides have disseminated to Americans on masks, social distancing and other public health precautions.
Trump, she said, usually was not focused on the virus but would often “blindside” the task force and administration officials with public comments, such as his support for the drug hydroxychloroquine, his Twitter attack on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the agency’s guidance on the reopening of schools, his skeptical comments about masks and his public musings about “herd immunity.” Many of his comments were the opposite of what had been discussed in the Situation Room, where task force meetings were often held, and were at odds with scientific recommendations or the administration’s own data, Troye said.
The administration, she said, missed months to slow the spread of the virus because the president and other key administration officials refused to embrace masks, even as members of the task force and health officials “repeatedly begged” Trump to do so.
Senior aides to Pence held a contemptuous view of the administration’s scientists and tried to project a far too rosy outlook about the virus with cherry-picked data — and key public health agencies including the CDC were marginalized throughout her tenure, Troye said.
Troye said the White House did not quickly resolve problems with coronavirus testing in the early months as the virus spread, though she concedes those hitches were not personally Trump’s fault.
Troye said Trump was constantly looking to reopen states and schools — even when others feared that doing so would be unsafe — and would regularly disregard what his advisers suggested.
“There were a lot of closed door conversations I have had with a lot of senior people across the administration where they agree with me wholeheartedly,” she said of her assessment of Trump.
Troye said she expects sharp denunciations from former colleagues in the administration and also expects to be denigrated by the White House and the president on Twitter.
Troye held a key role on the coronavirus task force but also carried out an array of other duties for the vice president, advising him on mass shootings, immigration, hurricanes and some foreign affairs issues, she said.
In private, she said, Pence would say the “right things” in calls to governors and “was in an impossible situation with the president.” Troye also praised a number of the administration’s top health officials.
Troye said she and other advisers regularly encountered a desire on the part of the president and his political advisers, along with some senior members of the vice president’s team, to move on from the coronavirus even as thousands were dying and to focus on the economy or the campaign.
She was asked by senior Pence aides, she said, to help on an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that minimized the fears of a second coronavirus wave and touted the administration’s work on the virus as a success story.
She declined to name these Pence aides publicly but said there was consistent pressure from Pence’s senior officials to focus more on the economy and the reelection campaign
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