A former Mike Pence staffer who played a key role in advising the government on its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has accused Keith Kellogg of "bald faced" lies, after the retired Gen. claimed he gave the ex-aide her marching orders from the White House.
Olivia Troye, an ex-Homeland Security official, left her role in August under a cloud. She later featured in a scathing testimonal video about president, hitting out at his response to the virus, which has now claimed some 200,000 US lives.
The White House reacted furiously to the video and launched a personal attack on Ms Troye, who has come out in support of the president's Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Gen. Kellogg, who is vice president Mike Pence's national security adviser, told reporters on Tuesday that he was "proud of the president".
"I am not proud of Olivia Troye,” he added, rebuking claims by Ms Troye that the president had acted calously in the face of a public health crisis.“ I fired her. Her performance dropped off,” he said. “I escorted her off the [White House] compound.”
Ms Troye, who now advises the Repair Republic organisation, a group of former US officials "seeking to repair the GOP and America" was quick to hit back at her former boss, calling him out for what she said were false allegations.
“Sad that Gen. Kellogg is telling a bald faced lie to protect the President," Ms Troye wrote in a tweet on Tuesday. "I resigned on my own accord & was asked to stay. He never escorted me out. He knows this. I wrote a note thanking all the colleagues who had worked so hard with me in spite of POTUS & I stand by that,” she added.
Last week, Ms Troye told The Washington Post that the president’s main concern was the economy and reelection, and that she wouldn’t trust a Covid-19 vaccine that launches before the November vote.
Ms Troye said the president claimed that Covid-19 was a “good thing” because it meant he didn’t have to shpostake hands with “disgusting people”. She said he was referring to his own supporters. "Those disgusting people are the same people he claims to care about. These are the people who are still going to his rallies today, who have complete faith in who he is."
She joins several former officials, or what the White House calls “disgruntled” ex-employees, to flip on the president to detail the dysfunctional inner workings of his administration’s first term.
“The president’s rhetoric and his own attacks against people in his administration trying to do the work, as well as the promulgation of false narratives and incorrect information of the virus have made this ongoing response a failure,” Ms Troye said in an interview with the Post.
“I would not tell anyone I care about to take a vaccine that launches prior to the election … I would listen to the experts and the unity in pharma. And I would wait to make sure that this vaccine is safe and not a prop tied to an election,” she said.
She said the White House missed months to slow the virus because of the delay in advice from public health officials to recommend wearing masks.
“The mask issue was a critical one. If we would have gotten ahead on that and stressed the importance of it, we could have slowed the spread significantly … It was detrimental that it became a politicised issue. It still lingers today.”
While former national security advisor John Bolton and former defence secretary Jim Mattis have previously opened the book on their time inside Mr Trump’s presidency, Ms Troye is one of the first to focus on his handling of coronavirus.
She was a major, if behind-the-scenes, participant in the White House’s coronavirus taskforce, working closely with Mr Pence on the response, briefing the vice president, writing his comments, and setting meeting agendas, according to the Post.