The Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether the Trump administration was retaliating against a vaccine expert when it ousted him from an important job in the coronavirus battle. While that investigation is going on, the federal watchdog says, Rick Bright should be put back in his post atop the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. His lawyers said the watchdog has "reasonable grounds to believe" that Bright's demotion last month was retaliation, Politico reports. In his complaint over the firing, Bright said he had resisted endorsing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. The watchdog recommends a 45-day reinstatement.
The special counsel will ask the Department of Health and Human Services to delay the move, which Bright's lawyers said is "a common occurrence." A department spokeswoman wouldn't confirm anything about the case, calling it a personnel matter, per NPR. "However," she said, "HHS strongly disagrees with the allegations and characterizations in the complaint from Dr. Bright." President Trump said this week that Bright was "a disgruntled employee who's trying to help the Democrats win an election." The authority, where Bright was director, handles millions of dollars, directing funding to companies developing tests, treatments and vaccines. (Keep speaking up, an inspector general fired by Trump said.)