A former White House aide who helped co-ordinate the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has heavily criticised the president and said she plans to vote for Democrat Joe Biden.
Olivia Troye, a one-time aide to Vice President Mike Pence, said in a video released by the group Republican Voters Against Trump that the government knew by mid-February it was facing a pandemic.
“But the president didn’t want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year and how was this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success,” she said.
The lifelong Republican, who served as a top organiser for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Mr Trump had referred to the coronavirus as a hoax in the early stages.
“The truth is he doesn’t actually care about anyone else but himself,” she said.
“If the president had taken this virus seriously… he would have slowed the virus spread, he would have saved lives.”
She also recalled comments Mr Trump allegedly made during a task force meeting suggesting that COVID-19 might be “a good thing” because it would mean he would not have to “shake hands” with “disgusting people”.
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The president has told reporters he did not know Ms Troye, saying she was let go but had written a “beautiful letter” praising the administration as she left.
“I never met her,” he added.
Mr Pence said the former aide’s remarks sounded like a disgruntled employee, while a White House spokesperson said her claims were not true.
“Outside of generally watching the White House Coronavirus Taskforce from the overflow staff room, this disgruntled former detailee was never in private meetings with the president and her assertions have no basis in reality and are flat out inaccurate,” spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement.
Ms Troye has said that while it was an honour to work in the White House, she had feared she was not making a difference because of the president’s actions.
“It was awful,” she said. “It was terrifying.”
More than 190,000 people have died with coronavirus in the US since the beginning of the pandemic.
Mr Trump has been stepping up efforts to win over voters ahead of the presidential election in November.
Trying to appeal to his core base of white voters, the president spoke on Thursday at the National Archives to commemorate the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the constitution.
He also announced plans to set up a “1776 Commission” which will champion “patriotic education” in schools.