When I spoke with Olivia Troye on Thursday afternoon, she sounded more than a little scared. She was about to go public with a scorching video, in which she would denounce President Donald Trump and his stewardship of the country during the coronavirus pandemic. Troye, who served as Vice-President Mike Pence’s adviser for homeland security until late July, has witnessed the Administration’s response to the crisis, as Pence’s top aide on the White House coronavirus task force. She had seen Trump rant in private about Fox News coverage as his public-health advisers desperately tried to get him to focus on a disease that has now killed some two hundred thousand Americans. She had decided that Trump was lying to the American public about the disease, and that “words matter, especially when you’re the President of the United States,” and that it was time to speak out. She was nervous and scared and worried for her family and her career. But she plunged ahead anyway.
I asked about her firsthand observation of the President during the crisis. She said that Trump was “disruptive.” That he could not “focus.” That he was consumed by himself and his prospects in November. “For him, it was all about the election,” Troye told me. “He just can’t seem to care about anyone else besides himself.”
Troye joined the coronavirus task force when it was first established, in late January, before any Americans had died from COVID-19. Her experience on it, Troye told me, convinced her that Trump’s handling of the situation—the conscious spreading of disinformation, the disregard for the task force’s work—had made the crisis far worse for Americans. She warned about the President’s push for a vaccine before the November election and said that she did not trust him to do the right thing for the country’s health and safety. “What I’m really concerned about is if they rush this vaccine and pressure people and get something out because they want to save the election,” she said.
Troye is the first White House staff member who has worked on the coronavirus response to speak out publicly against Trump, but the President and the Administration she described were drearily consistent with portraits that have emerged in countless other tell-all interviews and books: a White House riven by backstabbing and suspicion, where trouble flowed from the top and good governance was subordinate to Presidential whim and partisan calculation. She told me she believed that most other staffers on the coronavirus task force were genuinely motivated to help Americans weather the pandemic but that Trump blocked them from implementing the right policies. “Everything that you’re putting in place is derailed not just by a random person—it’s derailed by a No. 1. It’s derailed by the person at the very top,” she said.
Troye described herself to me as a lifelong Republican, whose first job out of college was at the Republican National Committee. On 9/11, she fled her office on foot, walking home past the