Dr. Rick Bright, who claims that he was improperly removed by the Trump administration as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), will testify as a whistleblower on Thursday morning in front of a House subcommittee led by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), who has a company in her district that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in awards from BARDA under Bright’s leadership.
Eshoo’s decision to hold a hearing only a few weeks after Bright made his allegations against the Trump administration has come under fire from lawmakers who state that she is breaking norms and procedures by rushing the hearing. Bright made the allegations against the Trump administration in late April after he hired Democrat lawyer Debra Katz, the same lawyer that represented Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford.
Politico highlighted some of the actions that Eshoo took when setting up the hearing that upset lawmakers:
For instance, committee lawmakers traditionally discuss the structure, format and potential witnesses about two weeks ahead of a hearing. But Eshoo didn’t brief Republicans on the hearing’s structure until Monday, about 72 hours beforehand, said two committee aides, giving them little time to prepare or seek witnesses to balance Bright.
Republicans also said that Eshoo didn’t inform them about whom she had invited to testify, noting that the California Democrat sent out invitations to potential witnesses like Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on her own personal office’s letterhead, rather than the traditional practice of sending invitations through the committee.
Bright claims that the Trump administration pressured officials to push hydroxychloroquine, that he was ignored after warning about shortages of some medical equipment, and that the administration did not respond as strongly to the China-originating pandemic as it could have.
However, a separate report from Politico painted a different picture:
But some colleagues say Bright’s complaint leaves out the full context for the pivotal malaria drug episode, which two current and two former officials say paints a murkier picture of Bright’s claims. Some of his allegations about department decisions on Covid-19 don’t match officials’ statements or the public record. And Bright’s central claim that he was ousted for battling Trump appointees over science is less than certain given that some of his own staff spent months raising concerns about his leadership, including a complaint filed by a person in Bright’s office last summer.
Politico noted that while some of Bright’s former colleagues said that he inspired some, he also reportedly “alienated” others that he worked with. One apparent ally of Bright’s, who spoke anonymously to Politico, said that an administration official tried to force him out because they viewed him as an outsider. However, Politico noted that Bright had praised that very official only a month before he was relieved of his position.
[Eshoo] represents a Northern California district home to a company that received more than $110 million in awards from BARDA while Bright led the office. Other companies with offices in Eshoo’s district benefited from more than $100 million in awards from BARDA in the decadeprior to Bright’s leadership.
Eshoo, who helped craft the 2006 legislation to create BARDA and has since worked to bolster its authorities, also has been a longtime booster of Bright, including for his work to fund the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics through public sector-private industry partnerships.
Politico reporter Dan Diamond reported in April that the Trump administration had been looking to oust Bright from his position since last year, before the pandemic was on anyone’s radar, due to his “incompetence and insubordination.”
The Trump administration has been working to oust Bright since last year, as officials battled with him over his management and leadership.
With permission, sharing this time-stamped text from individual with knowledge of those fights. pic.twitter.com/ExYILm1pQI
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) April 22, 2020
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