Pence adviser knocks ex-staffer who criticized Trump on COVID-19

Pence adviser knocks ex-staffer who criticized Trump on COVID-19
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The White House on Tuesday sought to forcefully push back on a former aide to Vice President Pence who has offered support for Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York woman arrested after allegedly spitting on Jewish children Former Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE and publicly criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE’s handling of the novel coronavirus.

Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser, appeared at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon to offer criticism of Olivia Troye, the ex-Pence staffer, claiming he “fired her” for underperforming and disputing her behind-the-scenes account of coronavirus task force meetings at the White House.

“What she has said, I have never heard. That’s never happened and I’ve been through every single meeting of the task force, been with the president and the vice president through every meeting,” Kellogg, who did not take questions during his appearance, told reporters.

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Troye promptly responded to his comments, tweeting that Kellogg was telling a "bald faced lie to protect the President" and that she resigned at her own volition and was asked to stay on the job. 

Kellogg in his remarks Tuesday defended Trump’s response to the virus, saying the president has made “critical decisions” like restricting travel from China and arguing that Trump has projected confidence like a leader should.

“We are now facing the worst pandemic we have seen in over 100 years and we are fighting through it. We are this close to a vaccine that will work,” Kellogg said.

Troye, who served as Pence's homeland security adviser and an adviser to the White House coronavirus task force before departing in July, said in an advertisement released last week by the group Republican Voters Against Trump that the current president failed to take COVID-19 seriously and keep Americans safe.

She also claimed that Trump said during one task force meeting that the virus may be a “good thing” because he would no longer have to shake hands with people he regarded as “disgusting.” 

Troye is among a number of Republicans and former Trump administration officials who have publicly criticized the president and offered support for Biden, who is currently leading Trump in national and swing state polling less than two months from the November election.

The former Pence aide appeared on NBC’s “Today” show earlier Tuesday, saying the task force knew in late January that the coronavirus would be a big problem. In the weeks following, Trump went on to downplay the threat posed by the virus, likening it to the seasonal flu and predicting it would “disappear.”

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Recent audio released by veteran journalist Bob Woodward for his book “Rage” showed that Trump acknowledged in a March interview that he sought to “play” the virus “down.” As of Tuesday, the coronavirus has killed 200,000 people in the U.S.

White House officials, including Pence, have dismissed Troye as a “disgruntled” former official. Trump told reporters last week that he didn’t know her, describing her as “ some kind of a lower-level person.”

The White House has also pointed to Troye’s email sent to colleagues when she departed her White House position in July. In the message, Troye complimented the work of colleagues on the task force and wrote that she had "witnessed first hand how dedicated and committed all of you have been to doing the right thing.”