WASHINGTON — Olivia Troye, who played a key role in the Trump administration's coronavirus response as an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, says that President Donald Trump is "not actually looking out for" Americans in his handling of the pandemic.
In an interview with Andrea Mitchell airing Tuesday on "NBC Nightly News," Troye spoke about Trump "undermining" guidelines developed by the White House's coronavirus task force.
She cited, for example, the president’s decision to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the height of the pandemic during the summer, where he didn’t follow the advice of experts on protective measures, such as wearing a mask.
"He's not actually looking out for you," Troye said. "He's not looking out for these people. He's not looking out for them. He just wants you in that audience so he can have the camera shot of, you know, his fanfare and the people around him. But the truth is, he's putting those lives at risk."
Troye left the White House in July and announced publicly last week that she planned to vote for Trump’s opponent, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, for president. She had worked as a homeland security and counterterrorism aide to Pence for two years and served as his adviser on the coronavirus task force.
In the interview, which aired in part on NBC's "TODAY" show, Troye said it was "very challenging" working on the task force because "suddenly the course of what we were doing had changed because that wasn’t really what the president wanted."
"It’s very hard when you're trying to actually base things on facts and science and on the data to have a president that wasn't focused on that," she said. "He 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 at hand, which was how are we going to save and protect Americans."
Troye said it was "embarrassing" when Trump suggested that people inject themselves with disinfectant to help combat Covid-19 and she confirmed that Trump said in the Situation Room, "'You know, when you're a politician, you have to shake a lotta hands. You have to shake a lotta hands. And these people are disgusting. It's gross. And so maybe COVID — COVID's probably a good thing, right? I don't have to shake hands. I don't have to do that anymore.'"
"I can't believe you would even say that out loud," she said. "These people are suffering right now and you're worried about or you're happy about the fact that you don't have to touch them anymore."
The White House on Tuesday attempted to paint Troye as a disgruntled ex-employee.
"Olivia Troye worked for me, I fired her, " said Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who currently serves as Pence's national security adviser, speaking from the White House briefing room on Tuesday, criticizing her performance on the White House coronavirus task force.
"What she has said, I have never heard," he added. "That’s never happened."
Troye responded later Tuesday on Twitter, writing that 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 continued.
Troye said that toward the end of her tenure, she increasingly saw interference in scientific reports from political public affairs people, saying, "There was a lot of political pressure internally to word things in the right way."
Ultimately, the coronavirus is "not gone," despite the president saying the U.S. is rounding the final turn, Troye said.
"We just hit 200,000 deaths. It's not going away," she said.