Olivia Troye is Vice President Pence’s recently departed homeland security adviser, and as The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reports, she’s stepping forward to make her case against Trump. She does so from a unique vantage point: She was involved in many of the White House’s internal discussions on the coronavirus pandemic.
Troye said she organized and participated in every meeting of the coronavirus task force, which her former boss chairs, between February and July. And her description of what she heard is as bleak as many critics of the pandemic response have suggested — if not bleaker.
Among Troye’s allegations:
- She directly blames Trump and his administration for the size of the outbreak and the number of deaths, which now total nearly 200,000. She points particularly to Trump’s unwillingness to embrace mask-wearing — which advisers have “repeatedly begged” him to do — and to his preoccupation with the economy. Troye says Trump demonstrated a “flat-out disregard for human life” because his “main concern was the economy and his reelection.”
- She describes an often completely unengaged Trump who spends task force meetings focused on other issues and going off on sometimes-lengthy tangents. She said he once spent 45 minutes complaining about insufficiently Trump-friendly Fox News hosts. “He spent more time about who was going to call Fox and yell at them to set them straight than he did on the virus,” she said.
- She says Trump’s public pronouncements about things like hydroxychloroquine routinely blindsided the officials who worked with him and often ran directly counter to what he had been briefed on.
- She says everyone came to be afraid of disagreeing with Trump because they were routinely thrown “under the bus.” “Instead of being focused on the task at hand, people were constantly wondering what was going to drop next or when you’re going to get reprimanded or cut out of a process for speaking out,” she said.
- She went so far as to say that people should be skeptical of a vaccine if it’s released before the election, because of the kind of political pressure she saw being brought to bear.
Troye also says in a video for the outside group Republican Voters Against Trump that he once said, “Maybe this covid thing is a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.” She said the quote stuck with her because it defined Trump’s approach to the virus.
As with anyone who inserts themselves into these matters so shortly before an election, Troye’s motives will be attacked. She acknowledges that she didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, but she says she has voted for Republicans consistently throughout her life and opted to join the Pence team because she accepted Trump’s election and wanted to help.
She was also a loyal and long-running participant in the White House’s response, by her own account. That included participating in Pence’s infamous Wall Street Journal op-ed in June playing down the idea of a coronavirus second wave — even as the outbreak was indeed resurging across the country.
“It was ludicrous,” Troye now says, but she helped write it. She also expressed regret for not being more aggressive internally to help right the ship on the response.
Despite that criticism, Troye has positive things to say about her former boss, saying Pence “was in an impossible situation” with Trump and that Pence privately did the “right things.” And notably, she doesn’t blame Trump for everything; she says the slow ramp-up in testing, for example, wasn’t his fault.
Her version is also important for one big reason: She has hardly been the attention-seeking type in the past. Having spent her career behind the scenes, she acknowledges fear about what is ahead for her.
“Honestly, I am scared,” she said. “I have never done anything like this.”
The fact that people in these lower-profile positions are putting themselves on the line is a continually important point.
Indeed, Troye isn’t completely alone in speaking out against the administration’s coronavirus response from an internal perspective. A former top aide at the Department of Homeland Security, Elizabeth Neumann, also cut an ad last month for the RVAT.
Neumann, who was assistant secretary for threat prevention and security policy, offered criticisms similar to Troye’s. She said that existing pandemic plans were disregarded and that “from January until March 11, what you saw instead was a number of good public servants attempting to do their job and the president telling them to stop, because he didn’t want the economy to tank and he didn’t want a distraction from his campaign.” She added that Trump had “absolutely failed.” Another former top DHS aide under Trump, Miles Taylor, has leveled explosive allegations on other topics.
While Neumann’s job meant she was involved, Troye was consistently bearing witness not just early in the outbreak, but through its resurgence this summer, when virtually every other First World country had things much more under control. She saw up-close how Trump handled it — and how he didn’t. She may not bring the heft of former defense secretary Jim Mattis or former national security adviser John Bolton, who also have criticized Trump of late. But she’s speaking to something — on the record — from a similarly significant vantage point.
And she paints an utterly devastating picture.