How a veteran's secret podcast put her in the Trump administration's crosshairs

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How a veteran's secret podcast put her in the Trump administration's crosshairs

Now, two and a half years later, Gill, herself a veteran, says that after an internal V.A. Examination of the podcast – called Mueller She Wrote – when asked how to record a podcast and perform live shows while claiming to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

The result raises delicate questions as to where the government can draw the line for an employee’s freedom of speech, even if it gives ballast to President Donald Trump’s claims that a “deep state” is working to undermine its administration from within.

“It was total retribution,” said Gilly’s lawyer Cathy Harris about the podcast investigation. “It should only bother and get rid of them. You behaved like private investigators. “

Gill contested her dismissal and filed a complaint about equal opportunities alleging that she had been discriminated against and harassed. Asked for a comment, a V.A. The spokesman said: “We are contesting these allegations in the relevant forum and cannot make any further comments due to pending litigation.”

Gill joined the V.A. as a medical worker in 2009 because she says, “As a survivor of a military sexual trauma, I responded to Obama’s call to serve my country. I wanted to help other survivors and veterans.” By 2015, she had earned a doctorate in health management and was promoted to a healthcare system specialist who served as the VA liaison with the Pentagon and oversaw the contract for the military health program in the West region.

Things got strange in 2016, said Gill. Earlier this year, she applied for and received permission from her then superior to run as a delegate to the DNC, a race she had lost. She was allowed to do this as long as she did not publicly register as a V.A. Employees, and was instructed by her manager to simply remove her job from her Facebook page during the election, she says.

Within a month of Trump’s victory, Gill said she was from the V.A. that government lawyers have applied for all of their employee records under the Freedom of Information Act – they still don’t know who requested them or why.

“I was told I had no say in the matter,” she said.

When the Mueller investigation began a few months later, Gill was not deterred – and decided to start a podcast about the probe in her spare time. “I found it fascinating, of historical relevance, and I’ve always been interested in politics,” she said. “I am a civil servant, I am a former military and I think our system of government is really interesting. I figured they would make documentaries about the Mueller investigation in 20 or 30 years and I wanted to be part of it.”

Gill started the podcast from her kitchen and the first episode was released shortly after Mueller filed charges in October 2017 against Trump’s former campaign advisor Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos. Before the first episode aired, Gill laid down ground rules for her colleagues to keep them all under the Hatch Act.

“This is an official release from me, Allison Gill, owner of Mueller, She Wrote LLC, in writing notifying you that no one is requesting donations for political campaigns from an official Mueller, She Wrote social media account including Instagram, Facebook (both the Mueller, She Wrote, and Friends of Justice pages), Twitter, Snapchat, or any other platform at any time, ”Gill wrote in an email.

“You also can’t use the MSW accounts to like, share, or retweet political fundraising posts,” he continued. “In addition, between 06:30 and 1600 PDT / PST from Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays – see the official list of observed federal holidays and public holidays on the Office of Personal Management website) no official political position Mueller, she wrote an account In addition, it is not permitted to like or share / tweet such posts during these hours. “

Gill introduced himself on the show as A.G. and said: “Because of the Hatch Act, because of my work with the federal government, I or my title must not be associated with political discussions.”

Gill and her co-hosts, comedians Jordan Coburn and Jaleesa Johnson, addressed a wider audience by sharing developments in the Mueller Probe with increasingly well-known guests – including former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul – collapsed. and a lot of snark. A recurring segment was the Fantasy Indictment League, in which the hosts would bet who would be most likely to be charged next.

The podcast quickly gained an enthusiastic following – Mueller She Wrote’s Twitter account had garnered nearly 90,000 followers since its last episode earlier this month – but Gill kept her real name and employer secret. By August 2019, the podcast had an audience of 250,000 with about 600,000 downloads per month, Gill said, and many of their live shows – they showed 12 shows in theaters with more than 300 seats each in 2019 – were sold out. The podcast continued after Mueller’s investigation ended in April 2019. The discussions ranged from the trial against former Trump advisor Roger Stone to the so-called “Obamagate” scandal shaped by the president.

However, in early April 2019, Gill said she was blind when her new manager told her that her job would move across the country from San Diego to Washington DC, despite moving her position to California in 2015, Gill said. She suspected that she was rejected not only for her political views, but also for complaining about comments from her manager and others who appeared to shed light on PTSD.

Gill also pointed out a comment the then White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, made in August 2019 to persuade federal employees to quit their jobs by relocating them – Mulvaney was referring to moving them out of DC “into real life” Part of the country ”, but Gill believed that the tactic was also used in her situation, since she had informed her previous boss months earlier that she could not apply for a senior position because of the need to move to the east coast .

“Now it’s almost impossible to fire a federal employee,” Mulvaney said at a GOP event at the time. “I know that because a lot of them work for me. And I tried And you can’t do it. But just say to people, you know what? We will take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal port and take you to the real part of the country and they will give up. What a wonderful way to rationalize the government and do what we haven’t been able to do in a long time. ”

Instead of quitting, Gill decided to take a 12-week unpaid leave under the Family and Health Leave Act, referring to her post-traumatic stress, which made it difficult to work in an office environment. When she was again informed in a letter while on vacation that her job would be relocated across the country, she said again that she could not move and accepted that she would be fired.

“Instead, they brought me back and interrogated me about my podcast,” said Gill.

According to a report by Gill’s then-manager, Patrick Grady, about the investigation he had carried out on the podcast, which the V.A. After she quit, Grady Gill confronted the podcast with her social media posts and photos of herself “on tour” during her vacation and asked how she could interact and travel with fans if she had PTSD and couldn’t work in an office . It is not clear on what basis the investigation was conducted since none of Gill’s appearances on the podcast or on tour featured the V.A. or revealed her real name. The V.A. declined to respond, citing ongoing litigation.

“She replied that she was able to run these events because it is a hobby that she enjoys and does not exacerbate the PTS,” Grady wrote in his report to the VA General Counsel’s office, Grady with the Investigation commissioned. “These events are not associated with trauma.”

Gill was never officially accused of misconduct for the podcast. But the V.A. After the investigation, she was finally dismissed for “medical incapacity”. Gill had requested to work remotely instead of moving to Washington and, when rejected, filed an EEO complaint alleging that the V.A. had discriminated against her because of her PTSD.

The episode raised the eyebrows of a former Trump cabinet official: the former V.A. Secretary David Shulkin, whom Gill interviewed on the podcast late last year.

“I’ve been doing this project for almost two years and haven’t told anyone yet, but I’m a VA employee,” said Gill to Shulkin in a part of the interview that was not released publicly, explaining that “at the height of our podcast.” I was informed that my job would be transferred to DC, “and asked Shulkin if the VA’s justification. He had given her something for this move – a modernization measure – that he was aware of when he headed the department.

“I wasn’t, and I didn’t interpret the word” modernization “to mean restructuring the workforce,” said Shulkin. “This is new news for me … it is sad for me to hear that people who have the experience and are as committed as you seem to be for the right reasons leave the organization because it really is a brain drain of specialists. We need career employees who feel safe and continue the work they like to do. ”

Gill is currently finding success in a Mueller She Wrote spinoff called The Daily Beans, described by Gill as “a daily podcast for progressive news (with curses!) For your morning commute on weekdays”.

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