Expelled coronavirus whistleblower says Trump administration is ‘on the war track’ against him

A senior Health and Human Services Department official who says he was kicked out of a key pandemic response job for rejecting demands to sign a coronavirus treatment the president had advocated, said Thursday that the department had taken more. retaliation. head.

Dr. Rick Bright, who had been deputy assistant secretary of health and human services for preparedness and response and director of the Advanced Biomedical Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, until mid-April, updated his complaint of wrongdoing on Thursday with allegations that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar ordered agency staff to “frustrate” their ability to do their new job.

According to the amended complaint, Bright alleged that Azar had told the agency’s employees to “refrain from doing anything that could help Dr. Bright succeed in his new role” and that the employees had been warned. that Azar was “on the warpath” in response to Bright’s initial complaint.

“Going forward, Dr. Bright will need a collaborative relationship with BARDA to be successful, and Secretary Azar’s direction towards BARDA employees is a clear act of retaliation that has affected their ability to do their job,” the complaint said. amended.

In his initial complaint of wrongdoing to the Office of the Special Adviser filed last month, Bright had said he was transferred from BARDA “without notice or explanation” for his refusal to adopt hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug promoted by President Donald Trump as a possible coronavirus. remedy. Bright also said there was “mismanagement” at the agency.

Bright, whose initial complaint requested his reinstatement at BARDA, was transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the initial complaint, Bright also described a chaotic response to the coronavirus at the Department of Health and Human Services, largely driven by “pressure from HHS leadership to ignore scientific merit and expert recommendations and instead grant lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism. “

But in his amended complaint filed Thursday, Bright claimed that after he filed his initial complaint, senior administration officials, including Trump, launched a media retaliatory campaign to try to discredit him and that he had been sidelined in the NIH in an “extremely narrow role” that “excluded him” from the agency’s “vaccine work, including the vaccine programs it initiated in response to the current response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This intentional effort to pigeonhole Dr. Bright is detrimental to his entire professional career,” said the amended complaint. “He is excluded from the scientific and industry work to which he has devoted decades of his career.”

The amended complaint seeks that Azar refrain from the department’s official response to Bright’s initial complaint request that Bright be reinstated to his former job.

A week after he filed his initial complaint, Bright testified before Congress that the Trump administration’s schedule for a coronavirus vaccine is likely overly optimistic and criticized Trump and other top officials for downplaying the outbreak from the start, with deadly consequences, he said.

As of Thursday, there were nearly 2.4 million cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States, and more than 122,000 deaths.

Trump dismissed Bright as a “disgruntled employee” on Twitter prior to his testimony, a tweet that Bright cited in his amended complaint as evidence of the administration’s retaliatory campaign.