Whistleblower Blasts Trump's Response to Pandemic
May 5, 2020 2:09 PM   Subscribe

According to Vanity Fair, there are many troubling allegations contained in the "blistering, 63-page complaint" that Dr. Rick Bright, former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), filed today with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. Among other things, "He was pressured to invest in drugs and vaccines that lacked scientific merit, because the people selling them had friends in the Trump administration, up to and including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner."

He was forced to transfer funds to acquire drugs for the Strategic National Stockpile, America’s most important reserve of lifesaving medications, based not on health needs but on “political connections and cronyism.” He was instructed to use his department’s budget to purchase flu medications of questionable efficacy. And when the COVID-19 crisis erupted, he was pressured to approve a plan that would “flood” cities with unproven and untested doses of chloroquine drugs, from uninspected manufacturing plants in Asia. When his efforts to work through the system failed, he decided he had a “moral obligation to the American public” to ring the alarm about the plan, “which he believed constituted a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.” In retaliation, he was “smeared,” with officials unfairly accusing him of dropping the ball on vaccine development and PPE preparation.
posted by Bella Donna (51 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good luck, Dr Bright, and thank you for your sacrifice.
posted by saturday_morning at 2:10 PM on May 5 [76 favorites]


Full text of the filing.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:24 PM on May 5 [11 favorites]


More proof that people who blather on about the "free market" don't actually want one. They want money no matter how many people have to suffer and die.
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:34 PM on May 5 [66 favorites]


Running it like a business.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 2:37 PM on May 5 [27 favorites]


Surely this...
posted by Burhanistan at 2:40 PM on May 5 [12 favorites]


Impeach him some more.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:40 PM on May 5 [50 favorites]


I was gonna say, have we blown our entire impeachment wad already or is there still any left?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 2:46 PM on May 5 [8 favorites]


See also

Wapo, don't think this is Dr. Bright.
posted by Max Power at 2:52 PM on May 5 [5 favorites]


Page 32 of the whistleblower complaint is where we learn that Dr. Bright was supposed to renew a contract to a pharmaceutical company because something something buddies with Jared Kushner. That is not a direct quote but it gives you a flavor of the criming criminals continuing to crime or attempt to. Thing is, Dr. Bright was not supposed to unilaterally make funding decisions but the cronies, they did not understand such concepts. Sigh.

Max Power, that is a great article, thanks! It is an entirely different complaint apart from sharing the topics of coronavirus respond, Jared Kushner, Trump administration, and failure. Emphasis below is mine. "The document alleges that the team responsible for PPE had little success in helping the government secure such equipment, in part because none of the team members had significant experience in health care, procurement or supply-chain operations. In addition, none of the volunteers had relationships with manufacturers or a clear understanding of customs requirements or Food and Drug Administration rules, according to the complaint and two senior administration officials."

TL;DR: Situation Normal–All Fucked Up.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:58 PM on May 5 [24 favorites]


Off to bed; just a reminder that this is not a kitchen-sink, we all hate 45 thread. Thank you.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:59 PM on May 5 [16 favorites]


I was gonna say, have we blown our entire impeachment wad already or is there still any left?

Donald Trump is the only one that requires impeachment. Everyone else involved in this story is fair game for normal prosecution.
posted by atrazine at 3:03 PM on May 5 [36 favorites]


Jared was the one telling Trump that the virus wasn't a big deal all through January and February, he wrote the speech that caused thousands of panicked Americans to jam airports on the way back from Europe, and he's been unofficially running the federal COVID response since March on the principles of greed, stupidity, incompetence, and contempt. He's already responsible for probably ten times as many dead Americans as Osama bin Laden.
posted by theodolite at 3:13 PM on May 5 [64 favorites]


Murderous corruption. This all could have been prevented, or at least significantly lessened. Tens to hundreds of thousands of Americans will die because of the Republicans' incompetence, greed, and corruption.
posted by Nelson at 3:17 PM on May 5 [12 favorites]


Thanks be to Dr. Bright, for integrity and courage. I have waded through about a third of the PDF. My eyeballs bounce, so I'll try for more tomorrow.

So far this reads like a seminar in felonious nepotism and influence peddling. I can't wait until our Attorney General gets hold of the pertinent documents, so he can put these people behind bars.
posted by mule98J at 3:27 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


You know, as much as I see the peppering of words like 'blistering' and 'blast' I do not see a system, or a polity, in any position to do anything about this. If the anger expressed on screens translated to anything then our reality would be very different.
posted by elkevelvet at 3:27 PM on May 5 [28 favorites]


Well, at least it produces a whole new crop of journalists for the Noble committee to award prizes to.
posted by jamjam at 3:32 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


If there weren’t tens of millions of Americans continually willing to ignore, deflect or angrily deny news this like, then our reality would be very different. As it is...welp.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:46 PM on May 5 [21 favorites]


Prosecute.
posted by mwhybark at 4:38 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]


Hoping he doesn't accidentally fall out a window/onto a bunch of bullets/get in a car crash where the assailant drives off and is never caught.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:56 PM on May 5 [5 favorites]


Man, imagine being a whistleblower in the era of Trump, sticking your neck out for the public, hoping for anybody in congress to give half a shit
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:56 PM on May 5 [57 favorites]


The list of scientific and medical fails from this administration will make Lysenko and Stalin look so good in comparison.
posted by benzenedream at 4:59 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


He's going to need the best lawyers on the planet and round the clock protection. How can I get this guy money?
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 5:06 PM on May 5 [6 favorites]


Ten? We're approaching a 9/11 in casualties every day. And this is somehow supposed to be acceptable.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:19 PM on May 5 [12 favorites]


/head explodes
posted by mwhybark at 6:07 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


I've been reading the complaint on and off since this was posted ( had to get tacos on the table for dinner, etc... ) and this is like an x-ray view into the mechanics of the grift. It's just narrow and focused enough that you don't get lost in multiple POVs, yet wide-ranging enough within its own domain to tell a complete and compelling story.

I hope someday a screenwriter does his story justice.
posted by mikelieman at 6:34 PM on May 5 [17 favorites]


[Jared Kushner is] already responsible for probably ten times as many dead Americans as Osama bin Laden.

Dr Bright's complaint doesn't actually blame Kushner for this: he's only mentioned because Bright's boss allegedly pushed for the use of "a chemical" (chloroquine?) produced by a particular company, saying that its boss was a friend of Kushner. That's a pretty thin thread to hang him on.

Don't get me wrong: Kushner's deserves censure for his arrogance, incompetence, and grift, but his role is a consequence of this administration and its enablers. If Kushner is responsible for the majority of the COVID-19 deaths, where does that leave Trump? Where does it leave the Republican-dominated Senate, which has stymied any supervision of the Executive? It looks to me as if Kushner is being set up as the fall guy while Trump himself and people like, e.g., Mitch McConnell will almost certainly escape any consequences.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:39 PM on May 5 [8 favorites]


Man, they just can't help themselves, can they? I don't think that this crew is capable of not being corrupt if they ever thought to try. Everything is an opportunity for grift, even a global pandemic.
posted by octothorpe at 6:55 PM on May 5 [7 favorites]


I don't think that this crew is capable of not being corrupt if they ever thought to try. Everything is an opportunity for grift, even a global pandemic.

What's not discussed in this whole "run it like a business" shtick is that companies tend to just keep money around to cover fines when they break the law. It's just considered a cost of business. So, breaking the law is just a regular cost of business.

The reason they are incapable of being corrupt is because American business in general is incapable of being corrupt and we've just been pretending for fifty years that fining someone a fraction of the profits they made from breaking the law somehow prevents criminal malfeasance.

No, it does not, it breeds motherfuckers like this.

Also, the whole "never let a good opportunity go to waste" isn't exactly a new idea. Which is part of why it breeds idiots like this, at least people like Milton Friedman had a freaking brain, but like most adherents of dogma, these people understand very little of the philosophy behind ideas like Friedman's disaster capitalism, nor care to. So they wield it hamfistedly.
posted by deadaluspark at 7:02 PM on May 5 [15 favorites]


From Max Power's link: "Kilmeade and Pirro said they were not aware that their tips were being prioritized, a Fox News spokeswoman said." Oh? What did they think the purpose of their phone calls was, then?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:02 PM on May 5 [5 favorites]


If Kushner is responsible for the majority of the COVID-19 deaths, where does that leave Trump?

Responsible for Kushner.

Where does it leave the Republican-dominated Senate, which has stymied any supervision of the Executive?

Responsible for Trump

It looks to me as if Kushner is being set up as the fall guy while Trump himself and people like, e.g., Mitch McConnell will almost certainly escape any consequences.

Why let any of them escape the thousands of dead Americans? They are each singularly and as a conspiracy responsible for what will soon be hundred of thousands of dead Americans.
posted by Uncle at 7:17 PM on May 5 [20 favorites]


I wonder how many trumpistas are buying condos in Dubai about now.
posted by Max Power at 7:28 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


Why let any of them escape the thousands of dead Americans? They are each singularly and as a conspiracy responsible for what will soon be hundred of thousands of dead Americans.

Exactly this.

If he doesn’t get voted out in November I don’t know what I’m going to do. Good governance shouldn’t be an aspiration or stretch goal of a society.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:40 PM on May 5 [15 favorites]


I am more worried about the strong nuclear force changing slightly and ruining my risotto than I am about Jared Fucking Kushner receiving an oversized share of blame for the negligent homicide of this administration
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:59 PM on May 5 [28 favorites]


Moscow doctors falling from Windows lately, if you hadn't seen this.
posted by Windopaene at 9:39 PM on May 5 [7 favorites]


Re: Impeachment -

1) There is no double jeopardy law related to impeachment. The House can re-impeach all it wants. It's just not likey to be be useful.
2) There is definitely on limit on impeaching again for new charges, and I would love to see this done. P45 can go down in history as the first president to be impeached twice.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:55 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


Oh man, an impeachment trial with discovery, would be amazing. But, they’ll stonewall just like they do, and the GOP, the Good Ol Pandemic party, will continue to enable him as long as this virus isn’t killing rich white men. If the so called essential workers die, well...poor people are easy to replace in a class system where ones only value is your labor for the overseer.

Slavery is all but being enforced at the hot spots of meat processing. The president ordered them open, gave no mandate to protect the workers, and the governors of those states said if people didn’t go to work there, unemployment and food stamps would be cut off. There are virtually no other jobs, those are company towns, most of them. So, work and maybe die, or don’t work and be homeless and maybe die.

They emptied the supply of necessary medication for lupus and RA sufferers, needlessly experimented on old veterans, killing some of them, have hijacked and stolen tons of PPE from the states that’s still unaccounted for, and wasted countless man hours letting a demented old fool dribble and drabble on the tv while tens of thousands of Americans were dying. Are continuing to die. And now, they’re going to roll out the Mission Accomplished banner, throw up their hands and tell us that our lives are less important than their stock portfolios.

This people are willing to kill us all, and still 85% of Republicans are fine with that.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:20 AM on May 6 [27 favorites]


What's not discussed in this whole "run it like a business" shtick is that companies tend to just keep money around to cover fines when they break the law. It's just considered a cost of business. So, breaking the law is just a regular cost of business.

What's not discussed is that "business" is a ridiculously wide category. Someone who has worked for years in a large multinational will have a lot of experience with effective delegation, compliance with supervision from regulators, shareholders, and auditors. Experience of operations, logistics, personnel management, and lots of other potentially valuable skills.

Your local used car dealer much less and a real estate huckster who has never directly employed more than a (100?) or so people and has only ever been either the boss' son or the boss of a company he owns does not have experience anything like that.

He can't get anything done, because he's never had to operate within a bureaucratic organisation where most people have to follow procedures, let alone laws, before. He's used to shouting and to his personal retainers carrying out his commands, and he is permanently frustrated that even his political appointees know that they are not his personal staff and certainly their departments do.

If he was competent, it would be a million times worse. Remember how they fucked up the travel ban? Competent racists could easily, *easily*, have dressed that up and gotten it done immune from serious court challenge.
posted by atrazine at 12:45 AM on May 6 [8 favorites]


I was wondering why someone with the immense power of the entire US government would rely on random volunteers for a job like this. Don't @ me, I was tired when I read it and in the bright morning light it's easy to see it's all about the grift. I guess that ties into atrazine's comment above: if they were actually smart, they could have harnessed the immense power of the entire US government for their own purposes, but it seems they can't entirely do that.
posted by mumimor at 1:22 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


The big disconnect in all this is the assumption, on the part of the grifters, that they will escape any consequences of their actions AND, hilariously, the consequences in this particular case is contracting a virus that damn well might kill you! Oh, these rascals! Sigh. Gotta love 'em. I mean, they're also trying to kill us all, but still. Such chutzpah!

Impeachment will never happen. Any real consequences will never happen. C.f. Iran Contra. The only real hope for democracy in the US is a responsive election process - that would entail no more insane gerrymandering, no more disenfranchising Electoral-college and a reliable, nation-wide vote counting process. I know, not gonna happen. Well, maybe this virus can do some of the good work and, you know, get to work on the administration. Yeah, that probably won't do anything either.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:53 AM on May 6 [4 favorites]


From CNN: “Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat who chairs a key House health subcommittee, plans to hold a May 14 hearing with Rick Bright, the ousted head of a key office who filed a whistleblower complaint alleging his warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that he was reprimanded because he voiced skepticism about a potential treatment touted by Trump.”
posted by Bella Donna at 3:15 AM on May 6 [11 favorites]


The document alleges that the team responsible for PPE had little success in helping the government secure such equipment, in part because none of the team members had significant experience in health care, procurement or supply-chain operations. In addition, none of the volunteers had relationships with manufacturers or a clear understanding of customs requirements or Food and Drug Administration rules, according to the complaint and two senior administration officials.

Democrats and the so-called "liberal media" have in general failed to point out, in the face of decades of Republican attacks on competent government, that we used to have the same spoils system Trump obviously wants to install, and we got rid of it because it didn't work.

America led the world in technical competence in part because of a working civil service system. Dr. Bright is one example, doubltess to be smeared for his integrity as part of the "deep state" by right-wing media hucksters.

When they say "deep state," they mean competent, loyal civil servants. Shame on the media for accepting, if not amplifying, these unwarranted smears with barely a shrug.
posted by Gelatin at 5:19 AM on May 6 [13 favorites]


The Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis, Missouri, has issued a letter signed by a bunch of rabbis and other religious figures declaring that
"Our Jewish tradition values human life above virtually all else.... therefore it is a deeply held religious belief to remain home on days in which elections are held and that such a belief qualifies one under the Missouri law to vote in any regional, state, or federal elections via absentee ballot."
Link

It seems to me that the position they're taking is very defensible in Jewish law. I kind of feel that Missouri won't agree that it is the sort of religious belief that ought to be respected, but I hope I'm wrong.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:43 AM on May 6 [9 favorites]


Administration to Phase Out Coronavirus Task Force(NYT)

I find it more than a little suspicious that the decision to wrap up the task force prematurely coincides with this whistle-blower complaint. They aren't shutting it down because the plague is over. They know this guy has the receipts so they're running for the exits.
posted by adept256 at 10:48 AM on May 6 [4 favorites]


Why would they "run for the exits" when they know they won't be held accountable in any meaningful way? At most there'll be a few negative editorials (with copious amounts of "some say" both-sidesisms) and AOC will "destroy" them in a passionate speech.
posted by bradf at 12:17 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


Why would they "run for the exits" when they know they won't be held accountable in any meaningful way? At most there'll be a few negative editorials (with copious amounts of "some say" both-sidesisms) and AOC will "destroy" them in a passionate speech.

Because they can read the RNC's internal polls, and they know that a Democratic administration next year 1) will not be saddled with Obama's baggage to not look like an "angry black man" and b) will be at the head of a movement of loyal Americans who will not be in a forgiving mood at all, no matter how many bad-faith op-eds David Brooks writes about "looking forward not backward" or Mitch McConnell complains about "criminalizing politics."

The thing is, politicians are committing actual crimes, and fairly openly, and absent a bootlicking toady like Barr -- who needs to follow John Mitchell's footsteps straight to prison himself -- whose job is to look the other way, losing power means much more real consequences than clickbaity headlines about a blistering committee speech.
posted by Gelatin at 12:35 PM on May 6 [9 favorites]


I think we'll have a better idea of whether Joe Biden will be mad and try to hammer down on *gestures wildly* all-o-this or run a "look forward" style government during the first debate.

If we get genteel Joe, then fuck.

But if Trump tries his shtick and Joe pulls a very loud "You're full of shit!" then I think things will be OK in the end.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:20 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


That assumes there will be debates, which I consider unlikely.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:56 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]


Moscow doctors falling from Windows lately, if you hadn't seen this.
posted by Windopaene


Ok, so first, eponysterical. Second, the linked article (which is troubling for sure) contains this sentence, featuring what I have to say is the best independent clause I’ve read so far this week:

“It is rare for doctors to fall from windows in Russia, but Shulepov was the third health worker to fall out of a window in the country in the past two weeks.“
posted by nickmark at 2:15 PM on May 6 [17 favorites]


(CNN) - Nurses rallied in front of the White House on Thursday morning to protest the lack of personal protective equipment available to them in the battle against the novel coronavirus.

The demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Square in front of the White House and placed 88 pairs of empty shoes on the ground. Those shoes represented the life of each nurse they say has been lost due inadequate personal protective equipment while fighting the coronavirus. The demonstrators then read the names of the 88 fallen nurses.

... The protest comes just a day after Trump contradicted a nurse he honored in the Oval Office who had told him that availability of personal protective equipment can be "sporadic." Trump insisted there are no personal protective equipment shortages in the US. "Sporadic for you but not sporadic for a lot of other people," the President told the nurse.

posted by Bella Donna at 10:19 AM on May 8 [7 favorites]


From the whistle-blower's complaint -- In the early days of the pandemic, the U.S. government turned down an offer to manufacture millions of N95 masks in America

One distributor of tactical gear — a company with no history of procuring medical equipment — was awarded a $55 million deal to provide masks for as much as $5.50 a piece, eight times what the government was paying months earlier.

On April 7, FEMA awarded Prestige [the company that sounded the alarm, and could make many more masks] a $9.5 million contract to provide a million N95 masks a month for one year, an order the company could fulfill without activating its dormant manufacturing lines. For the masks, Prestige charged the government 79 cents a piece.

posted by NotLost at 11:44 PM on May 9 [6 favorites]


From Forbes: "Americans deserve the truth,” Bright said during his opening testimony Thursday. “The truth must be based on science. We have the world's greatest scientists. Let us lead. Let us speak without fear of retribution. ...

"Health officials have maintained that it will take a year or more for a COVID-19 vaccine to be developed, with some experts pointing to a 12-18 month as a possible timeline for a vaccine. Bright said Thursday that a 12-18 month timeline was 'aggressive' and that it could take longer. He also added that even if a coronavirus vaccine is developed, the nation isn't ready to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine in a 'fair and equitable' way.

"After Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C) asked Bright why the U.S. was struggling to get adequate testing supplies like swabs, he suggested it was likely because of a lack of a 'master coordinated plan on how to respond to this outbreak.' "
posted by Bella Donna at 1:34 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


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