Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

President Donald Trump holds a press conference announcing Vice President Mike Pence will lead the effort combating the spread of the coronavirus in Washington, D.C. on February 26, 2020. (Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Whistleblower Accuses Trump of 'Corrupt' Effort to 'Cover Up' Possible Exposure of Federal Workers to Coronavirus

"The utter ineptitude of this administration is infuriating. They are going to get people killed."

Jake Johnson

A whistleblower from the Department of Health and Human Services is alleging that the Trump administration, without providing adequate medical training or protective equipment, sent more than a dozen federal workers to two military bases in California to help process Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan, China and quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus.

The senior HHS official, according to the New York Times and other outlets, has shared their account with Congress and is preparing to file a formal complaint with Office of the Special Counsel accusing the Trump administration of improperly reassigning them as punishment for raising concerns about the handling of the virus.

"The Trump administration's careless incompetence has put lives at risk. Punishing whistleblowers shows how unwilling they are to take responsibility."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren

"In a narrative prepared for Congress, the whistleblower painted a grim portrait of staff members who found themselves suddenly thrust into a federal effort to confront the coronavirus in the United States," the Times reported late Thursday. "After a phone call with health agency leaders to raise their fears about exposure to the virus, the staff members described a 'whitewashing' of the situation, characterizing the response as 'corrupt' and a 'cover-up,' according to the narrative."

The whistleblower wrote in the complaint that they "began to field panicked calls from my leadership team and deployed staff members expressing concerns with the lack of HHS communication and coordination, staff being sent into quarantined areas without personal protective equipment, training or experience in managing public health emergencies, safety protocols, and the potential danger to both themselves and members of the public they come into contact with."

Federal health officials who interacted with possibly infected individuals were permitted to move freely on and off the military bases, according to the whistleblower, with one worker staying at a nearby hotel and departing from their assignment on a commercial flight. The person said federal officials who raised concerns about the administration's handling of the coronavirus and failure to provide necessary protections for staffers were treated as a "nuisance."

"The Trump administration's careless incompetence has put lives at risk," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "Punishing whistleblowers shows how unwilling they are to take responsibility."

The whistleblower's allegations came just hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a person in California tested positive for the coronavirus, despite apparently having had no interaction with anyone exposed to the virus.

"The utter ineptitude of this administration is infuriating," wrote Parker Molloy, editor-at-large with Media Matters for America. "They are going to get people killed, and all that will matter is whether or not they win re-election and what the stock market looks like. They don't care if people die."

"So here's what appears to be chain of events," tweeted MSNBC's Chris Hayes. "The Trump administration repatriated infected Americans over the objections of the CDC. HHS then sent federal workers to interact with the infected population without adequate training or protection."

"Then those workers went out into the public with no monitoring or testing regime in place. And now the first U.S.-contracted case has appeared right near one of the airforce bases where this all happened," Hayes added. "When someone at HHS raised alarms about all this s/he was criticized for hurting morale and then ordered to another position or be fired. This is real, real, real bad."

President Donald Trump and other White House officials have publicly attempted to downplay the risk the coronavirus poses to the U.S. population and brushed aside concerns of lawmakers who say the administration's response has been slow and inadequate. The White House has also accused the media of intentionally stoking panic about the virus.

"Media refuses to discuss the great job our professionals are doing!" Trump tweeted Thursday night.

Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly working to clamp down on its coronavirus messaging by forcing all federal scientists and health officials to clear public statements with Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump appointed Wednesday to lead the administration's coronavirus response—a move that was met with outrage by lawmakers and experts.

According to the Times, Trump told people around him that he selected Pence to coordinate the coronavirus effort because the vice president didn't "have anything else to do."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'No Time to Waste': New Nationwide March For Our Lives Protests Set for June 11

"Together, we rose up four years ago. One million of us demanded change. We built a movement. We voted for new leaders. And the gun deaths increased. Now is the moment we march again."

Brett Wilkins ·

'We Need Fewer Guns in Schools, Not More': Teachers Reject GOP Call for Armed Educators

"Teachers should be teaching, not acting as armed security guards," the president of a leading teachers' union asserted in the wake of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Texas.

Brett Wilkins ·

Faith Leaders, Teachers Mobilize for Protests at NRA's Houston Meeting in Wake of Uvalde Massacre

"Don't look away," said one advocacy group. "Rally against the NRA."

Julia Conley ·

NY Appeals Court Rules Trump and Two of His Kids Must Testify in Financial Fraud Case

"Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law," said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Kenny Stancil ·

After Racist Massacre in Buffalo, Senate GOP Blocks Domestic Terrorism Bill

"There are a lot of MAGA Republicans for whom no amount of gun violence... will ever, ever convince them to take any action," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo