How a veteran’s secret podcast put her in the crosshairs of the Trump administration

Now two and a half years later, Gill, a veteran, says she was essentially forced to quit her job after an internal VA investigation of the podcast, called Mueller She Wrote, during which she was asked how she could record a podcast. and perform live shows while claiming to have PTSD.

The episode raises thorny questions about where the government can draw the line on an employee’s freedom of expression, even as it weighs down on President Donald Trump’s claims that a “deep state” is working to undermine his administration from within.

“It was totally retaliatory,” Gill’s attorney, Cathy Harris, said of the podcast investigation. “It was only meant to harass him and get rid of him. They were acting like private detectives. “

Gill has contested her dismissal and filed an equal employment opportunity complaint alleging that she was discriminated against and harassed. When asked for comment, a VA spokesperson said, “We are challenging these allegations in the appropriate forum and are unable to comment further due to pending litigation.”

Gill joined the VA as a medical employee in 2009 because, she says, “As a military survivor of sexual trauma, I responded to Obama’s call to serve my country. She wanted to help other survivors and veterans. “By 2015, she had earned a doctorate in health administration and was promoted to a health systems specialist, serving as the VA liaison with the Pentagon that oversees the contract for the US health care program. military in the western region.

Things started to get weird in 2016, Gill said. Earlier that year, she sought and obtained permission from her supervisor when she applied to be a DNC delegate, a career she lost. She was allowed to do so as long as she did not publicly represent herself as a VA employee, and her supervisor told her to simply remove her workplace from her Facebook page during the election, she says.

A month after Trump’s victory, Gill says the VA told her that government attorneys had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all of her employee records; You still don’t know who requested them exactly or why.

“They told me I had nothing to say about it,” he said.

Still, when Mueller’s investigation began a few months later, Gill was not discouraged and decided to launch a podcast on the probe in her spare time. “I thought it was fascinating, historically relevant, and I’ve always been involved in politics,” she said. “I am a public official, a former military man, and I think our system of government is really interesting. I thought to myself that in 20 or 30 years they were going to make documentaries about the Mueller investigation, and I wanted to be a part of that. ”

Gill started the podcast from his kitchen, and the first episode was released just after Mueller filed charges against former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos in October 2017. Before the first episode aired. Gill set the ground rules for his colleagues so that everyone stays within the limits of the Hatch Act.

“This is an official notice from me, Allison Gill, owner of Mueller, She Wrote LLC, writing to inform you that no one can post any political campaign fundraising requests from any official Mueller, She Wrote account on social media including Instagram , Facebook (both the Mueller page, She Wrote and the Friends of Justice page), Twitter, Snapchat or any other platform at any time, “Gill wrote in an email.

“You also cannot use MSW accounts to like, share, or retweet political fundraising posts,” he continued. In addition, no political publications of any kind may be made between 0630 and 1600 PDT / PST Monday through Friday (holidays excluded; see official list of federal holidays and observed holidays on the Office of Personnel Management website) ) of any Mueller official, she wrote the account. Also, no likes or shares / re-tweets of such posts are allowed during those hours. “

Gill appeared on the show as AG, explaining that “due to the Hatch Act, due to my work with the federal government, I am not allowed to associate myself or my degree with any political discussion.”

Gill and his co-hosts, comedians Jordan Coburn and Jaleesa Johnson, appealed to a wider audience by breaking down developments in the Mueller investigation with increasingly prominent guests, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former Ambassador to the United States in Russia, Michael McFaul. and a lot of grunting. A recurring segment was the “Fantasy Accusation League,” in which the hosts would bet on who was most likely to be charged next.

The podcast quickly gained devoted followers: As of its final episode earlier this month, the Mueller She Wrote Twitter account had amassed close to 90,000 followers, but Gill continued to keep her real name and employer secret. As of August 2019, the podcast had an audience of 250,000 with approximately 600,000 downloads per month, Gill said, and many of her live shows did 12 shows in 2019 in theaters with more than 300 seats each, sold out. The podcast continued after Mueller’s investigation ended in April 2019, with discussions ranging from the trial of former Trump adviser Roger Stone to the so-called “Obamagate” scandal coined by the president.

However, in early April 2019, Gill said she was shocked when her new supervisor told her that her job would move across the country, from San Diego to Washington, DC, even though her position moved to California in 2015, Gill said. She suspected that she was being retaliated against, not only for her political views, but also because she had complained about comments made by her supervisor and others that seemed to clarify PTSD.

Gill also noted a comment that then-White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made in August 2019 about inducing federal employees to quit by moving their jobs: Mulvaney was referring to moving them from DC “to the real part of the country, “but Gill believed the tactic was being used in her situation as well, having informed her previous boss months before that she was unable to apply for a senior position because it would require her to move to the east coast.

“Now, it’s almost impossible to fire a federal worker,” Mulvaney said at the time, speaking at a Republican event. “I know this because many of them work for me. And I have tried. And you can’t do it. But just by telling people, you know what, we will take you out of the bubble, out of the ring, out of this liberal haven and we will move you to the real part of the country, and they will give up. What a wonderful way to streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do in a long time. ”

Rather than resign, Gill decided to take a 12-week unpaid leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act, citing her post-traumatic stress making it difficult to work in an office environment. When she was told again, through a letter while on leave, that her job would move across the country, she again said that she could not relocate and accepted that she was going to be fired.

“Instead, they brought me back and interrogated me about my podcast,” said Gill.

According to a report by Gill’s then-supervisor, Patrick Grady, about his podcast investigation, which was produced by the VA to Gill after she was fired, Grady confronted Gill with social media posts and photos of She “on tour” with the podcast while on leave and asked how she could interact with fans and travel if she had PTSD and couldn’t work in an office. It is unclear what the basis of the investigation was, given that none of Gill’s podcast or tour appearances mentioned the VA or revealed her real name. The VA declined to respond, citing the ongoing litigation.

“She replied that she was able to do these events as they are a hobby she enjoys and do not exacerbate PTS,” Grady wrote in his report to the VA Office of Legal Counsel, which commissioned Grady to do the research. “Those events are not linked to trauma.”

Gill was never formally accused of wrongdoing for running the podcast. But the VA eventually fired her for “medical disability” after the investigation ended. Gill had applied to work remotely instead of moving to Washington and, when denied, filed an EEO complaint alleging that the VA had discriminated against him for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

The episode raised the eyebrows of a former Trump cabinet official – former VA Secretary David Shulkin, whom Gill interviewed on the podcast late last year.

“I have been doing this project for almost two years to this day, and I have not told anyone yet, but I am a VA employee,” Gill told Shulkin in a part of the interview that was not publicly disclosed. . She explained that “at the height of our podcast, I was informed that my job would move to DC,” and asked Shulkin if the justification the VA had given him for that relocation, a modernization effort, was something that I was aware while leading the Department.

“It was not, and I did not interpret the word ‘modernization’ as a restructuring of the workforce,” said Shulkin. “So that is new news for me … it is sad for me to hear that people who have the experience and are as dedicated as they seem to be, for the right reasons, are leaving the organization because that is really a brain drain.” . We need career employees to help them feel safe and continue doing the job they love. ”

For now, Gill is finding success in a Mueller She Wrote spin-off called The Daily Beans, described by Gill as “a daily progressive news podcast (with oaths!) For his Monday-Friday morning trip.”