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Trump blasts whistleblower who defied him over drug he lauded

President's fury after claim of slow and chaotic pandemic response


US president Donald Trump. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

US president Donald Trump. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

US president Donald Trump. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

After former top vaccine official Rick Bright maintained the US government's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been slow and chaotic, President Donald Trump responded in a late-night tweetstorm saying whistleblowers like Mr Bright are "causing great injustice and harm" to the nation.

In an interview with '60 Minutes', the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) criticised the government for failing to have a clear plan for the American outbreak.

He reiterated claims he was reassigned to a less-respected role within the Department of Health and Human Services last month after raising concerns regarding the drug hydroxychloroquine - pushed by Mr Trump as a possible cure for the coronavirus - and trying to "prioritise science and safety over political expediency".

"We don't yet have a national strategy to respond fully to this pandemic," Mr Bright said.

"The best scientists that we have in our government who are working really hard to try to figure this out aren't getting that clear, cohesive leadership, strategic plan message yet. Until they get that, it's still going to be chaotic."

Shortly after the programme aired on Sunday, Mr Trump took to Twitter to again describe the concerns of Mr Bright, who led BARDA for four years, as those from a "disgruntled employee" and reiterated his long-standing call to undo protections for whistleblowers.

"This whole Whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice & harm," he tweeted.

Mr Trump, who has long disdained whistleblowers and sought to intimidate them, then tagged Republican Senator Susan Collins, who has co-authored whistleblower legislation. "I hope you are listening," Mr Trump tweeted.

The interview, the first since Mr Bright testified before Congress last week about the government's response to the coronavirus, comes as more states reopen during a pandemic that has nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases in the US and at least 88,000 deaths.

Mr Bright told '60 Minutes' he never believed hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, could be as Mr Trump said "a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine".

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"The limited data told us it could be dangerous. It could have negative side effects," said Mr Bright. "And it could even lead to death."

As he has outlined in his 89-page whistleblower complaint, he received a directive from the White House to "drop everything" to make the drug "widely available to the American public", describing it as political pressure to force "dozens of federal scientists" to rush to put together protocol for approving hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 patients.

He became impatient with government officials who "refused to listen" and shared his concerns with a reporter about "drugs which he believed constituted a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety".

Mr Bright believes his reassignment to what he considered a lesser role is retaliation for speaking out. "I believe my last-ditch effort to protect Americans from that drug was the final straw that they used and believed was essential to push me out," Mr Bright said. There is growing evidence suggesting the drug is more deadly than helpful in treating Covid-19. (© Washington Post)

'It's good': US president says he is taking malaria pills

US President Donald Trump, in a surprise announcement, said yesterday he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against the coronavirus despite medical warnings about the use of the malaria drug.

"I'm taking hydroxychloroquine," Mr Trump told reporters.

"I've been taking it for the last week and a half. A pill every day. I think it's good."

Mr Trump volunteered the disclosure during a question-and-answer session with reporters as he met restaurant executives whose businesses are reeling from the impact of the virus.

Weeks ago Mr Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus, but subsequent studies found that it was not helpful.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

© Washington Post

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