The federal government and its whistleblowers have always had an uneasy relationship, but never before have we witnessed the appalling spectacle of the President of the United States engaging in open intimidation and insult of whistleblowers from his Twitter account — but under a president like Donald J. Trump, it feels like it was only a matter of time.
On Thursday morning, Trump took to Twitter to trash Rick Bright, the former vaccine chief who was unceremoniously ousted from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) after refusing to endorse the president’s unconfirmed and untested assertions about the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine in treating the COVID-19 virus, which had become an object of Trump obsession as the president sought a quick fix to the crisis he had knowingly allowed to escalate.
I don’t know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him, but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2020
The attack tweet came hours before Bright was set to testify before the Health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where he is expected to warn that the United States faces the “darkest winter in modern history” and “unprecedented illness and fatalities” if it does not develop a more coordinated national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the beginning of the crisis, President Trump’s sole driving motivation was not the preservation of American life but to minimize the crisis in order to protect the economy and his re-election chances.
His administration deliberately ignored the warnings and refused to step up COVID-19 testing in order to not spook the markets, giving the virus all the time it needed to make the United States the epicenter of the global pandemic.
Having criminally mismanaged the beginning of the crisis, the Trump administration is intent on mismanaging the middle of it too, pushing for far-too early economic re-openings and misleading the public on the effectiveness of our testing program to the point that we will be dealing with a virus resurgence sooner rather than later.
Now the president is clearly attempting to intimidate and silence those brave men who are trying to sound the alarm and save American lives. It would be quite appropriate if we began referring to COVID-19 as the “Trump Bug,” since he’s been it’s biggest supporter since day one.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.