By Robert A. Vella
Dr. Rick Bright, who recently filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration, testified today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the gross negligence and cronyism which corrupted the federal government’s coronavirus pandemic response and caused the U.S. to suffer the worst public health crisis by far of any nation in the world. New details have emerged on how President Trump has sidelined the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in favor of rushing ahead with his reckless economic recovery plans. Four conservative judges on the Wisconsin Supreme Court shockingly invalidated an extension of the state’s “stay at home” order issued by Governor Tony Evers. Trump and his DOJ henchman – Attorney General William Barr – suffered a series of setbacks in court yesterday when the judge in the Roger Stone case demanded White House emails in the Ukraine coercion scandal (which led to impeachment), when a federal appeals court reinstated an emoluments lawsuit against the President, and when the judge in the Michael Flynn case moved to hear perjury charges concerning the defendant’s prior guilty pleas. The FBI has seized evidence from Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) in a criminal investigation of insider trading which involved confidential information he had access to in official briefings on the COVID-19 outbreak. Aside from the validity of the investigation (which does have merit), the search and seizure also casts suspicions of political retribution by the Department of Justice because Burr and two other Senators involved in similar offenses – Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) – are either considered as disloyal or as an enemy by President Trump. Finally, another depressing weekly unemployment report by the Department of Labor, plus Wall Street concerns about an overinflated stock market, are triggering woeful predictions about the U.S. economy.
WASHINGTON — America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.
Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright, wearing a protective mask, testified Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Aspects of his complaint about early administration handling of the crisis were expected to be backed up by testimony from an executive of a company that manufactures respirator masks.
A federal watchdog agency has found “reasonable grounds” that Bright was removed from his post as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after sounding the alarm at the Department of Health and Human Services. Bright alleged he became a target of criticism when he urged early efforts to invest in vaccine development and stock up on supplies.
Bright’s testimony follows this week’s warning by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, that a rushed lifting of store-closing and stay-at-home restrictions could “turn back the clock,” seeding more suffering and death and complicating efforts to get the economy rolling again.
Last November, Rick Bright, then the director of a federal office that approves funding for medical emergencies, sat in on a meeting between his boss and two men — a pharmaceutical and biotech consultant and an Emory University professor — seeking millions of dollars for an unproven drug.
Bright wrote in a whistleblower complaint filed last week that he was wary as professor George Painter and consultant John Clerici described the drug “as a ‘cure all’ for influenza, Ebola, and nearly every other virus.” The team came back in February with an updated pitch after the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting its antiviral medication could be a treatment for COVID-19.
Painter, a pharmacology professor and CEO of a nonprofit biotech company, had already received $30 million from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense for small-scale clinical trials. But as Bright described in his complaint, Painter sought more money from Bright’s office, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Instead of going through Bright’s formal application process, Painter and Clerici sought funding through a separate, more “opaque” program created by Bright’s boss, Robert Kadlec — a Trump administration appointee and friend of Painter’s. Kadlec’s program was designed to support products, equipment and technology, Bright said, and lacked the expertise to evaluate drug development.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former chemical industry executive nominated to be the nation’s top consumer safety watchdog was involved in sidelining detailed guidelines to help communities reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, internal government emails show.
President Donald Trump has nominated Beck to be chairwoman and commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Beck is scheduled to appear before the Senate committee later this month.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that Beck was the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s main point of contact in the White House about the proposed recommendations. At issue was a 63-page guide created by the CDC that would give community leaders step-by-step instructions for reopening schools, day care centers, restaurants and other facilities.
Wisconsin Supreme Court shocker
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said the state was the “Wild West” on Wednesday night after the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked an extension of his stay-at-home order.
The Democratic state leader told MSNBC that judges had created “chaos” in Wisconsin by voting 4-3 against the extension of state lockdown measures until May 26. Wisconsin Supreme Court judges ruled on Wednesday that his stay-at-home extension was “unlawful, invalid and unenforceable.”
The governor warned that there was “nothing compelling anyone to do anything” in Wisconsin as the novel coronavirus continued to spread across the U.S.
Speaking to MSNBC last night, Gov. Evers said: “It was four members of the court who made a decision that wasn’t based on statute, precedents, or the facts, unfortunately.”
Trump’s court setbacks
A federal judge overseeing the trial of President Trump’s former confidante, Roger Stone, has ordered that the federal government turn over at least 20 emails related to the White House’s order to halt military aid to Ukraine, which sparked impeachment proceedings against the president on Capitol Hill.
Law and Crime reported that Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in favor of a motion for summary judgement filed by The New York Times and ordered the White House to provide her with emails that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) previously refused to turn over, citing executive privilege.
“Specifically, the documents in this category are emails that reflect communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President’s immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine,” OMB Deputy General Counsel Heather Walsh said of the emails in court filings.
Berman Jackson reportedly said in her ruling that she would personally determine if the emails are protected by executive privilege, directing the Justice Department’s attorneys to provide the documents before May 20.
Senator Burr searched
WASHINGTON — Federal agents seized a cellphone belonging to a prominent Republican senator on Wednesday night as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into controversial stock trades he made as the coronavirus first struck the U.S., a law enforcement official said.
Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on the lawmaker at his residence in the Washington area, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a law enforcement action.
The seizure represents a significant escalation in the investigation into whether Burr violated a law preventing members of Congress from trading on insider information they have gleaned from their official work.
Legendary investors Stan Druckenmiller and David Tepper were the latest to weigh in after a historic market rebound, saying the risk-reward of holding shares is the worst they’ve encountered in years. Druckenmiller on Tuesday called a V-shaped recovery — the idea the economy will quickly snap back as the coronavirus pandemic eases — a “fantasy.” Tepper said Wednesday that next to 1999, equities are overvalued the most he’s ever seen.
It’s a notion catching on among Wall Street money managers. And it’s coming as investors start to suspect that the Federal Reserve’s support, as well as $3 trillion in Treasury stimulus, may not be enough to compensate for soaring unemployment, a wave of bankruptcies and no end in sight to the pandemic. Managers including Bill Miller, Paul Singer and Paul Tudor Jones have all voiced doubts about markets or the economy.