Former Defense Secretary Mattis testifies in Theranos CEO trial

Former Defense Secretary Mattis testifies in Theranos CEO trial
© Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE, who once sat on the board of blood testing startup Theranos, testified Wednesday during the fraud trial of its chief executive, The Associated Press reported.

Mattis, who met Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes in 2011, was initially optimistic about Theranos’s technology, which was advertised as able to use blood droplets to test for a variety of health issues. He testified that he found her “sharp, articulate, committed,” according to the wire service. 

“I’m strong believer in what you have designed/built and hope we can get it in the theater soon to test it,” Mattis wrote to Holmes in an email in March 2013, the AP reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mattis joined the board of Theranos in 2013 after retiring from the military and invested about $85,000 of his own savings in the startup. Lawyers for Holmes showed proof that the company had paid him for his board member role at $150,000 per year, though he said during his testimony that he told the chief executive at the time he believed in the startup’s mission and would do it without compensation, according to the AP.

Mattis testified that, following an in-depth investigation by The Wall Street Journal in 2015 that was critical of Theranos’s technology, he started to have doubts about the company and later left the board in 2016.

Mattis’s comments came during the sixth day of Holmes’s trial. She faces multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The former chief executive has maintained her innocence, claiming that she did believe in her product but that it was not able to execute its intended goal, according to the AP.

“Failure is not a crime. Trying your hardest and coming up short is not a crime,” Lance Wade, an attorney for Holmes, said earlier this month during a rebuttal period, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S. government, however, believes that Holmes unlawfully misled investors and media about Theranos’s technology.

"This is a case about fraud — about lying and cheating to get money," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach, said, according the Post.