A former GOP aide to Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday she is choosing “country over party” and voting for Democratic nominee Joe Biden because of the administration’s Covid-19 response in a new ad released by a political action committee against President Donald Trump.
Olivia Troye, who worked as homeland security and counterterrorism aide to Pence for two years and served as his adviser on the Coronavirus Task Force, which he's helmed, said Trump showed indifference at the beginning of the pandemic and the administration’s response cost lives.
"The virus was very unpredictable at the beginning, there were a lot of unknowns but towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if COVID would become a big pandemic here in the United States, it was a matter of when," Troye, who left the White House in late July, said in an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump.
"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 added, “It was shocking seeing the president saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything is OK when we know that it’s not. The truth is he doesn’t care about anyone else but himself.”
Troye is not the first aide to leave the White House and speak out, but as one of the closest aides to the vice president during the pandemic response her comments are a stinging rebuke of the president, who is in a tough re-election battle and polls show Americans a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with his response.
Miles Taylor, who served as the chief of staff of Trump's Department of Homeland Security, has also left and criticized the administration. He said he is voting for Biden. Others include former national security advisor John Bolton, who wrote a scathing book about his time in the White House.
Troye said that during her time there, the president showed indifference.
"When we were in a task force meeting, the president said, ‘maybe this COVID thing is a good thing, I don't like shaking hands with people, I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people’," she said in the ad.
“Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about. These are the people still going to his rallies today, who have complete faith in who he is."
Troye, who is a Republican, said that meeting “defined who he was” and she had to leave the White House and decided that she would vote for Biden. The ad comes as the White House is defending the president against a new book and recorded audio by veteran journalist Bob Woodward in which Trump said he downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 in the beginning.
Pence dismissed Troye’s claims on Thursday.
“Well, I haven't read her comments in any detail but it reads to me like one more disgruntled employee who's left the White House and has decided to play politics during an election year,” Pence said.
“I think my staff has indicated that she made no comments like that when she was serving on our team here at the White House Coronavirus Taskforce and I couldn't be more proud of the work we've done all along the way and the leadership President Trump has provided.”
Trump also characterized Troye as a disgruntled employee.
"I have no idea who she is, she doesn’t know me. It’s just another person who leaves. We have a letter from her that was the most beautiful going away letter," he said. “They let her go, with cause, but they let her go.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later tweeted a picture of what she said was Troye's letter.
"Interesting departure letter from a disgruntled former detailee who typically sat in the overflow room of task force," she tweeted. "LESS THAN 2 months ago: 'I have witnessed first hand how dedicated and committed all of you have been to doing the right thing.'"
According to the letter shared by McEnany, Troye said that it was an "absolute honor working closely with all of you and your staffs, as part of the brain trust that has valiantly" faced this pandemic challenge.
"I will always be rooting for you knowing that you will continue to fight the good fight," the letter said. "Know that your unwavering commitment in the midst of the hardest times is an inspiration to me and Americans across the nation. We are grateful for everything you are doing to keep us all safe."
Troye made no mention of the president in the letter and only said that it has been "the experience of a lifetime" supporting Pence and her team on the coronavirus effort.