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May 5, 2020

Dr Rick Bright, who was formerly leading the federal government's coronavirus vaccine development, officially filed his whistleblower complaint on Tuesday. Bright reiterated that he believes he was removed from his post as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (and transferred to a "less impactful" position) because he refused to back President Trump's preferred, but unproven coronavirus treatment, hydroxychloroquine.

Additionally, Bright's complaint echoes other reports that members of the Trump administration received early warnings about the possibility that China's coronavirus outbreak could result in a pandemic. He singled out HHS Secretary Alex Azar as someone who resisted Bright's quest for resources to combat the virus' spread. But his allegations don't just revolve around COVID-19.

The complaint also describes a culture of "cronyism" within the HHS since the nascent days of the Trump administration in 2017. While Bright was running BARDA, the complaint said, he was determined to award contracts to companies looking to develop essential drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics based solely on scientific merit. But he allegedly clashed with top HHS officials, including HHS Assistant Secretary Dr. Robert Kadlec, who "pressured" Bright to "ignore expert recommendations" and "award lucrative contracts based on political connections." A lot of the tension reportedly stemmed from what Bright described as the "outsized" influence of John Clerici, a pharmaceutical industry consultant with longstanding ties to Kadlec.

Eventually, the complaint alleges, that led to "some discord" between Bright and HHS leadership that lasted until his recent removal. Read the full complaint here. Tim O'Donnell

November 18, 2019

A career official at the Internal Revenue Service who filed a whistleblower complaint over the summer, accusing at least one political appointee at the Treasury Department of trying to interfere with an audit of President Trump's tax returns, met with Senate Finance Committee staff members earlier this month, a congressional aide told The New York Times.

The whistleblower spoke with staffers for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee. The whistleblower contacted the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee in July, claiming that political appointees were getting involved in the audit and putting pressure of some kind on senior IRS officials, the Times reports.

Details of the allegations remain unclear, and the House Ways and Means Committee is still reviewing the complaint. "We generally do not comment on whistleblower meetings, their contents, or even if they happened," Michael Zona, a spokesman for Grassley, told the Times. "Additionally, federal law prohibits the discussion of protected taxpayer information."

A person familiar with the matter told the Times the complaint does not directly implicate Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has refused to comply with a congressional request to release six years worth of Trump's personal and business tax returns. Catherine Garcia

October 7, 2019

In order to protect the identity of the whistleblower who filed a complaint over President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, House Democrats are discussing several different ways this person could testify in a safe environment, three officials familiar with the discussions told The Washington Post on Monday.

The whistleblower has said they will answer questions in front of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, and there are concerns that Trump's most fervent supporters on the House panel could leak their identity, the officials said. There are several plans under consideration, including having an audio-only testimony, having the person appear via video with their appearance and voice distorted, and sitting the whistleblower down behind a partition or screen.

"There are lots of different protocols and procedures we're looking into to find out what works and doesn't work to protect the identity of the whistleblower," one official told the Post. "That is paramount." Another official said this is the first time the House Intelligence Committee has ever had to go to such lengths to protect a witness. Attorneys for the whistleblower have told acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire that they are worried about their client's safety, as "certain individuals" have put out a $50,000 "bounty" for "any information" on this person's identity.

Trump has said his call with Zelensky, which included him asking multiple times for Ukraine to open up an investigation into political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, was "perfect." He also has tweeted several inflammatory statements about the whistleblower, and said he wants to meet "my accuser." Catherine Garcia

October 6, 2019

The head of the intelligence community's internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson, interviewed a second whistleblower about President Trump's communications with Ukraine's government, Mark Zaid, the lawyer representing the anonymous official, confirmed Sunday.

The whistleblower reportedly has first-hand knowledge of Trump's dealings with Ukraine and could support the initial whistleblower's complaint that spurred the congressional impeachment inquiry. ABC News also notes that the existence of a second whistleblower could prove to be a blow to Trump's insistence that the first complaint was "totally inaccurate." Andrew Bakaj, the lead attorney for the first whistleblower, further confirmed that his firm "represents multiple whistleblowers," The Wall Street Journal reports.

The New York Times reported Friday that a second whistleblower was considering filing a formal complaint against the president. While Zaid, who is also one of the attorneys representing the original whistleblower, confirmed that he is representing a second official, it is not clear if the person referenced in the Times report is his client. The second whistleblower allegedly has more direct information than the first whistleblower, per the Times.

Zaid said both officials have full protection of the law to protect them from a retaliatory firing. The second official reportedly has not communicated with the congressional committees conducting the impeachment inquiry. Read more at Reuters and ABC News. Tim O'Donnell

September 27, 2019

Former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko might be a bit closer with Rudy Giuliani than President Trump's team might like.

In an interview with NBC News aired Friday, Lutsenko, who left his position late last month, addressed his now-recanted skepticism of the Biden family over the dismissal of previous prosecutor Viktor Shokin. "I don't know any possible violation of Ukrainian law" by either Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden, Lutsenko said — though it seems Giuliani did push him to find one.

Lutsenko served as Ukraine's top prosecutor after Shokin, who then-Vice President Biden and other western officials accused of letting corruption slide. But Shokin had previously investigated Burisma, an energy company Hunter Biden worked for, leading Lutsenko to speculate Joe Biden's dislike of Shokin had something to do with that. Both Giuliani and Trump seemed to agree, and Giuliani had made investigating the Bidens his near-singular focus for the past year. Lutsenko told NBC News he was not in "regular contact" with Giuliani, but he did speak to him "maybe 10 times" about the Bidens and "other political issues."

Yet even after Lutsenko reversed his Biden speculation in a May interview with Bloomberg, Trump still seemed to praise him in a July phone call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump did not mention the name of the "very good prosecutor" who was looking into Biden, so it could've been Lutsenko or Shokin. A whistleblower complaint about the call specifically said Trump was asking Zelensky to keep Lutsenko on as a prosecutor.

Like he said in the NBC News interview, "from the perspective of Ukrainian legislation," Hunter Biden "did not violate anything," Yutsenko told The Washington Post on Thursday. Kathryn Krawczyk

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