The Trump administration has been unusually tight-lipped in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, providing little verifiable information regarding the domestic impact of the virus. During recent public appearances, both Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar refused to answer questions from reporters. National security attorney Mark Zaid on Monday offered free legal representation to whistleblowers in the know about the government’s response, in an effort to make sure that the information coming out of administration is not being distorted.
“Too many conflicting reports coming from govt officials re: [COVID-19/coronavirus],” Zaid tweeted. “We need to know ground truth. Whistleblowers please come forward. We’ll provide you pro bono (free) legal representation. We need you now more than ever.”
Zaid, who was part of the Ukraine whistleblower’s legal team, told Law&Crime that he wanted to make sure anyone with potentially critical information wasn’t hesitant to come forward because of possible financial repercussions.
“Whistleblowers play an important role in every Administration, whether Democrat or Republican. They are particularly needed when the public and oversight officials are having difficulty obtaining crucial information,” Zaid said in an email to Law&Crime. “Unfortunately most whistleblowers do not have the necessary funds to risk coming forward, and they often act without receiving guidance from experienced lawyers who can shield them from mistakes and retaliation. We believe strongly in ensuring whistleblowers have every opportunity to lawfully come forward to not only protect themselves but the public as well. Therefore, my law firm and WhistleblowerAid.org make it our mission to help provide free legal representation to whistleblowers whenever possible.”
President Donald Trump has consistently relayed false information regarding the virus, telling reporters just last week that “anyone who wants a test gets a test,” despite his own administration conceding that there’s a nationwide shortage on testing kits.
The president on Monday continued to downplay the impact of COVID-19, saying that the morning’s stock market collapse – widely seen as a response to fear that a pandemic will disrupt global markets and supply chains – was actually caused by foreign oil markets and the media.
Trump also compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu, a comparison that many have remarked is not apt, as healthcare workers and institutions have little data and are struggling to fully assess the new virus.
Near the end of February, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that an HHS whistleblower filed an official complaint with the Office of the Special Counsel, alleging that they were retaliated against for voicing concerns. The whistleblower, who was seeking protection, is reportedly an award-winning expert in their field with decades of relevant experience.
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
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