A former adviser for Vice President Mike Pence said reports were accurate that the White House pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage schools to reopen and downplay the threat coronavirus posed to children.
Olivia Troye said these efforts were meant to improve President Donald Trump’s chances of reelection in the November general elections.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. has 7.16 million confirmed cases and over 205,000 reported deaths from coronavirus.
“Unfortunately, this was an effort, you know, at times where I would get blindsided, where there would be junior staffers being tasked to find different data for charts to show that the virus wasn’t as bad for certain populations, ages or demographics,” Troye told CNN on Tuesday.
“I think you’ve seen from the beginning the President’s narrative has been ‘everything’s fine. Everything’s OK. Time to get back to normal. Let’s get the economy going again.’”
Troye’s comments come nearly two weeks after she endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and said she planned to vote for him in November.
The New York Times released its report on the mounting pressure on Monday as well, describing the efforts White House staff to encourage reopening.
The Times said several members of the coronavirus task force, including Dr. Deborah Birx, and Pence’s staff routinely asked CDC officials to produce reports showing coronavirus was declining among younger populations. In some cases, Pence had his chief of staff, Marc Short, and junior staff members try to circumvent the CDC and to find data supporting their narrative.
The hope was having schools and the general economy reopened by the fall to help President Donald Trump’s chances of reelection. Troye said it was these actions that led her to leave the White House.
“You’re impacting people’s lives for whatever political agenda,” Troye said. “You’re exchanging votes for lives, and I have a serious problem with that.
“I was appalled when I found out that Marc Short was tasking more junior staff in the office of the vice president to develop charts for briefings.”
Troye added that she feels for CDC Director Robert Redfield because of the position the Trump administration put him in amid the pandemic.
That’s been evident in Redfield’s comments, which regularly contradict the White House’s efforts to downplay coronavirus. A recent example came during a Senate hearing on Sept. 16, when Redfield said masks were still the best tool to help combat coronavirus and the earliest the U.S. could “get back to regular life” would likely be between June and September 2021 if a vaccine was ready by December.
“I’ve seen Dr. Redfield trying to figure out how he’s going to navigate this political landscape while representing the true evidence of what the scientists and the experts back at CDC and all the doctors were telling him,” Troye said.