Another set-up: Usual lawyers behind ‘whistleblower’ complaints at HHS, including latest from departed BARDA director

Another set-up: Usual lawyers behind ‘whistleblower’ complaints at HHS, including latest from departed BARDA director
Washington's got a secret. Pixabay; LU graphic

The evidence of behind-the-scenes organization is almost laughable here.  It seems all the old methods and players are mounting another effort.

Dr. Richard Bright, formerly the director of the HHS research agency known as BARDA – Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority – filed a “whistleblower” complaint that will fall in the purview of the HHS Inspector General on Tuesday.  In it, according to CNN, he alleged that “his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that his caution at a treatment favored by President Donald Trump led to his removal.”

Bright was moved from BARDA to a position at the National Institutes of Health in April 2020.  He described this transition at the time (22 April) as an ouster, and said he was being retaliated against for bucking the Trump administration.

Interestingly, Bright reportedly says that he “raised concerns about US preparedness for coronavirus starting in January,” with the substance of his concerns apparently being “shortages of critical supplies, including masks.”  It is not clear why that fell within an R&D director’s purview, but perhaps we will find out.  CNN indicates that the 63-page complaint from Bright contains “a lengthy series of exhibits” in which “some of the memos [apparently about his warnings] are provided, including warnings on shortages of masks and syringes to administer an eventual vaccine.”

Dr. Rick Bright, formerly director of BARDA, gives a speech at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in 2018. NASEM Health and Medicine video, YouTube

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Bright’s “caution at a treatment favored” by Trump was expressed over hydroxychloroquine.  HHS addressed that point from Bright at the time he was moved to the NIH in April, pointing out that Bright had requested HCQ donations for the national stockpile:

An HHS spokeswoman on Wednesday night [in April] had said, “It was Dr. Bright who requested an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for donations of chloroquine that Bayer and Sandoz recently made to the Strategic National Stockpile for use on COVID-19 patients.”

As noted in the CNBC report, Caitlin Oakley, the HHS spokeswoman, clarified that “The EUA is what made the donated product available for use in combating COVID-19.”

Presumably HHS has Bright on record as signing that request.

We may take leave to doubt that a complaint running to 63 pages will be more persuasive on these matters than one that could apparently be stated in fewer than 10 pages (if as many).  But the lengthy series of exhibits may be of some interest.  How this complaint was expanded to 63 pages could be a study in the art of padding, like the “whistleblower” complaint on the Ukraine phone call that consisted largely of quotes and footnotes from media reporting.

Some amount of cynicism in this regard is in order at the outset.  When he was moved to the NIH and felt himself to have been ousted from his BARDA post, Bright retained as his lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, who represented Christine Blasey Ford in her Senate testimony against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Debra Katz (video grab), Hillary Clinton (DCNF).

We can be sure Katz and Banks will zealously apply the same professional standards they appeared to uphold in their representation of Blasey Ford.

It will also be of interest to observe whether the HHS IG is allowed to do her (or his) job and fully investigate the complaint from Bright, before Congress makes it the center of a political process as with the Ukraine phone call allegations.

The HHS IG situation is up in the air; Christi Grimm, Principal Deputy Acting IG, has been performing the duties of the job since January, but Trump expressed dissatisfaction with her office a month ago, and on Friday, 1 May announced he was nominating a U.S. Attorney, Jacob Weida, to be the permanent IG for HHS.

This transition is bound to be a political football in the Senate, given the complaint from Bright.  There is nothing inherently suspicious about Trump wanting to install a permanent IG.  HHS hasn’t had one for nearly a year; Grimm’s predecessor was also a Principal Deputy Acting IG, Joanne Chiedi, who retired from government service in December and is now with the law firm DLA Piper.

But the media have been trying to fan the flames of controversy over the decision to appoint a permanent HHS IG.  The media were also all over a previous whistleblower complaint lodged in February, in which an anonymous complainant said HHS employees were sent to deal with air passengers arriving with coronavirus infections, but were not afforded proper training and protective equipment.

The whistleblowers in both cases – Bright’s and the anonymous complainant’s – have expensive, high-profile attorneys, indicating organized political backing for their complaints.  The February complainant (see last link) is being represented by Ari Wilkenfeld, now of Wilkenfeld, Herendeen, & Atkinson.

Ari Wilkenfeld, attorney for HHS whistleblower, participates in a panel discussion at the National Press Club in 2018. National Press Club video, YouTube

But Mr. Wilkenfeld, a workplace rights attorney, was a founding partner in another law firm before he left it in 2009 to join a different firm.  The firm Wilkenfeld helped found: Katz, Marshall, & Banks – which represented Christine Blasey Ford and now represents Richard Bright.

Besides Debra Katz being a Hillary Clinton fundraiser and being linked to a major Obama bundler (link above), Katz is linked to a Soros-funded “watchdog” group, and Katz, Marshall, & Banks runs in circles that include prominent personalities from Spygate, the Kavanaugh episode, the Soros-funded “Indivisible” “resistance,” and the dark-money Sixteen-Thirty Fund which poured money into the 2018 election campaign as well as the anti-Kavanaugh effort.

The “whistleblower” developments in this case are so transparently organized by partisan lawyers and dark-money activists, it’s hard to take this seriously.  But it will probably be, at the very least, a huge waste of the sorely-tried American people’s time in Congress.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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