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Why it matters that a former Pence aide is now backing Joe Biden

As Mike Pence's lead staffer on dealing with the coronavirus, Olivia Troye saw Donald Trump up close. She's now voting for Joe Biden.
Olivia Troye, background top right, listens while Vice President Mike Pence meets with the President's coronavirus taskforce on Feb. 26, 2020, in his West Wing Office of the White House.
Olivia Troye, background top right, listens while Vice President Mike Pence meets with the President's coronavirus taskforce on Feb. 26, 2020, in his West Wing Office of the White House.D. Myles Cullen / White House

To an unprecedented extent, many prominent Republican voices have thrown their support behind Joe Biden's Democratic presidential candidacy, and as Election Day draws closer, the list of his GOP backers is growing.

A former GOP aide to Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday she is choosing "country over party" and voting for Democratic nominee Joe Biden because of the administration's Covid-19 response in a new ad released by a political action committee against President Donald Trump. Olivia Troye, who worked as homeland security and counterterrorism aide to Pence for two years and served as his adviser on the Coronavirus Task Force, which he's helmed, said Trump showed indifference at the beginning of the pandemic and the administration's response cost lives.

Troye, a lifelong Republican voter, had a front-row seat to the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what she saw was a president from her own party who demonstrated a "flat-out disregard for human life" and prioritized his re-election above all.

The former Pence aide -- the vice president's lead staffer on dealing with the coronavirus -- also did a striking, two-minute video for Republican Voters Against Trump in which Troye tells Americans she heard Trump say he saw a positive to the public-health crisis: the pandemic meant he wouldn't have to shake hands anymore with people he considered "disgusting."

So why is this important? For one thing, Troye knows of what she speaks. We are, after all, talking about a top official who organized every meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and who served as the top security advisor to the vice president who's leading that task force.

As she warns the American public that Donald Trump addressed the crisis with a combination of narcissism, dishonesty, and indifference, Troye isn't just speculating; she's alerting us to presidential failures she saw with her own eyes.

What's more, there's simply no precedent in the American tradition for so many members of one major party publicly throwing their support to the nominee of the other party. To the extent that there's a group of disgruntled GOP voters waiting for allies to tell them it's OK to choose Biden over Trump, the message they're now receiving couldn't be clearer.

But let's not brush past Pence's reaction to these developments. "Well, I haven't read her comments in any detail but it reads to me like one more disgruntled employee who's left the White House and has decided to play politics during an election year," the vice president said.

The key words were "one more" -- as in, there are a whole lot of Republicans who worked with Trump, saw how he tried to lead, and are now desperate to see him leave office. Pence would have voters believe the whole bunch is comprised of "disgruntled" former employees.

But therein lies the rub: if we were hearing from a person or two, it'd be easier to shrug off isolated critics from within the administration. The trouble for Team Trump, however, is the sheer volume: the president has been denounced by his former national security advisor, members of his own cabinet, member of his White House team, and top officials from federal agencies who had experience working directly with Trump.

Are we to believe that James Mattis, John Bolton, John Kelly, Miles Taylor, Elizabeth Neumann, Anthony Scaramucci, and Olivia Troye are all just "disgruntled" former employees with an ax to grind, or is it more plausible that these former members of Team Trump are offering credible warnings to the public about a president who's unfit for office?