The national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence scolded Olivia Troye — the former aide painting a damning portrait of President Trump’s coronavirus response — in unusually blunt terms Tuesday, saying she made up stories from the task force room and couldn’t do her own job.
“Olivia Troye worked for me. I fired her. The reason I fired her washer performances started to drop after six months working on the task force as a backbencher,” Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg told White House reporters.
Gen. Kellogg said Ms. Troye was responsible for coordinating meetings and “bringing people together.”
“When the performance level dropped off, I went to the vice president of the United States and recommended that she leave. I’m the one that escorted her off the compound,” he said.
Ms. Troye, who often attended White House coronavirus task force meetings, is panning Mr. Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in a series of high-profile interviews. She said the president was guided by his electoral prospects instead of public safety.
“No matter how hard you work and what you do, the president is going to do something that is detrimental to keeping Americans safe,” Ms. Troye said in her public debut last week, a Twitter video from Republican Political Alliance for Integrity & Reform.
The task force knew the virus was “going to be big” in January, though Mr. Trump predicted it would disappear like “magic,” Ms. Troye told NBC’s “Today Show” on Wednesday.
“It was really focused on public image, messaging, and it was really more about, you know, his personal agenda, than really the agenda that the task force had to have, which was how are we going to save Americans?” Ms. Troye said.
She said the president, a noted germaphobe, saw an upside to the pandemic.
“He said when you’re a politician, you have to shake a lot of hands. You have to shake a lot of hands. And these people are disgusting. It’s gross. And so maybe COVID’s probably a good thing, right? I don’t have to shake hands. I don’t have to do that anymore,” Ms. Troye recounted Mr. Trump as saying.
Gen. Kellogg said he has been to every meeting of the task force and never heard what Ms. Troye is describing. He said Ms. Troye is disparaging everyone who worked to mitigate the pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S.
“We are this close to a vaccine that will work. We are finally fighting through it, and we’re developing some opportunities to make sure the American people are protected as we go forward,” Gen. Kellogg said.
The lieutenant general said he was particularly bothered by the insinuation that the president and his aides didn’t care about the many people who lost their lives, often hooked up to ventilators and unable to speak to loved ones.
“That bothers us every single day. Don’t think it doesn’t,” Gen. Kellogg said.
Ms. Troye said her former boss is the one misleading the public.
“Sad that Gen. Kellogg is telling a bald faced lie to protect the President. I resigned on my own accord & was asked to stay. He never escorted me out. He knows this,” she tweeted. “I wrote a note thanking all the colleagues who had worked so hard with me in spite of POTUS & I stand by that.”
The White House response to the coronavirus threat is weighing down Mr. Trump’s reelection prospects about six weeks before Election Day.
Notably, author Bob Woodward released tapes in which Mr. Trump said in March that he liked to play down the threat to avoid panic.
“You want a president, you want a leader that displays confidence that we have something going forward that we’re going to win and beat this virus. And that’s what he’s done all the way along the line,” Gen. Kellogg said Tuesday.
The White House and Mr. Pence have described Ms. Troye as a “disgruntled employee” who was unable to keep up with her tasks.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the same is true for Miles Taylor, a high-level aide at the Department of Homeland Security who said he was horrified by Mr. Trump’s actions on immigration and other issues behind the scenes. He is enlisting other former White House officials to speak out before the election.
“Miles couldn’t go the distance,” Ms. McEnany said. “Those who knew Miles during his short time in the administration knew he could not get results.”