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Ex-Pence aide throws support behind Biden, citing Trump's virus response

A former aide to Vice President Pence will vote for Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE in the November election because of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new ad from an anti-Trump group of Republicans.

Olivia Troye, who served as Pence's Homeland Security adviser and an adviser to the White House coronavirus task force, said in an ad released Thursday from Republican Voters Against Trump that Trump failed to keep Americans safe.

"If the president had taken this virus seriously, or if he had actually made an effort to tell how serious it was, he would have slowed the virus spread, he would have saved lives," Troye said in the ad.

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Troye claimed that the president said during one coronavirus task force meeting that the virus may be a "good thing" because he would no longer have to shake hands with "these disgusting people."

In the ad, which opens with images of Troye aboard Air Force Two with Pence and sitting in on a meeting with public health officials, Troye describes herself as a "McCain Republican" and a "Bush Republican."

She laments that she often asked if her efforts in the White House were worth it because Trump was "going to do something that is detrimental to keeping Americans safe."

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Troye left her White House job in July.

Pence told reporters shortly after the ad was released that he had not seen Troye's comments in detail, but that "it reads to me like one more disgruntled employee that has decided to play politics during an election year."

White House officials quickly pushed back on Troye's criticisms, dismissing her as out of the loop and offering a distorted version of events.

"Outside of generally watching the White House Coronavirus Taskforce from the overflow staff room, this disgruntled former detailee was never in private meetings with the President and her assertions have no basis in reality and are flat out inaccurate," Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement.

Keith Kellogg, the vice president's national security adviser, said in a statement that Troye reported directly to him "and never once during her detail did she every express any concern regarding the Administration’s response to the Coronavirus to anyone in her chain of command."

In her departure email sent to colleagues in July, which was obtained by The Hill, Troye praised the work of other coronavirus task force members, writing that she had "witnessed first hand how dedicated and committed all of you have been to doing the right thing."

Troye is the latest ex-Trump administration official to come out in support of Biden in recent weeks, and she is joining a group called REPAIR (Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform), which consists of several former GOP lawmakers and administration officials.

Among them are Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security official, and Josh Venable, who worked under Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosHouse committee subpoenas Education Department staff over for-profit colleges DeVos says it isn't Department of Education's job to track schools' coronavirus reopening plans Judge calls Devos student loan forgiveness process 'disturbingly Kafkaesque' MORE.

But Troye is the first former official who was directly involved in the response to the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. and infected millions of Americans.

The virus has become a defining campaign issue for Trump. Polls show majorities of Americans do not approve of his handling of the pandemic and do not trust the information he gives about the virus.

The president has argued that he is the best candidate to rebuild the economy, which cratered due to the pandemic, and has offered rosy predictions about the availability of a vaccine that have at times contradicted his own health officials.