Sunday, September 11, 2022
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Sunday, September 11, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Exclusive: Tim Michels’ $17 Million Connecticut Home, New York City Penthouse Raise Residency Questions He Won’t Answer

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels left some key facts out of his campaign biography: Namely, a $17 million Long Island Sound home located in a Greenwich, Connecticut neighborhood. The home was purchased in October 2020 through an oddly named LLC that makes ownership hard to trace. However, we have uncovered a building permit buried in a series of public documents that lists the owners as Tim and Barbara Michels.

Furthermore, from 2013-2021, all three Michels children attended and graduated from high schools in Connecticut and New York City, Wisconsin Right Now has documented. They are not boarding schools, and the kids were extensively involved in high school sporting activities there.

The youngest son graduated from a Greenwich high school in 2021, where he was on the sailing team, skippering yachts, in the same neighborhood as the $17 million home. That’s just the start of the family’s extensive east coast lives over the past decade. Tim and Barbara Michels accumulated more than $30 million in homes in Connecticut and New York City, with some of the ownership hidden through LLCs.

Michels and his wife gave Weill Cornell Medicine in New York a large donation last year in honor of their daughter’s inspirational recovery from brain cancer. A story on that gift reveals, “By 2017, the family was living in the New York area…” That article describes the family as “natives of Wisconsin.”

Yet when Michels announced for governor, it was widely reported that he lives in Wisconsin, a point he emphasized in a news conference last month. The family’s ties to New York and Connecticut were not reported in the media, and he did not mention them.

Tim michels home

Why this matters:

The findings raise a host of questions. Where did Tim Michels and his wife live since 2013? Did Michels and his wife pay state taxes and vote as Wisconsin residents? He and his wife, Barbara, are registered to vote only in Wisconsin. We continue to pursue tax and voting records; we asked the campaign for the former, but they did not respond.

Voters have the right to know if a candidate for Wisconsin governor actually lived in the state over the past decade. One would think a campaign could easily answer these questions.

Michels’ wealth was largely accumulated through public projects and taxpayer money, including more than $1 billion from the State of Wisconsin; his company builds roads and pipelines. Some contracts have been controversial, including alleged double bidding.

We have heard several times that Michels’ relocation may have been tied to a massive project involving the New York subway system. It’s true that Michels Corp. received a $201 million contract in July 2013 to help complete a “multi-billion dollar infrastructure project bringing the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal.” According to the company’s website, however, the Manhattan project ended in 2016. The Blue Book network also says the project ended in March of 2016.

The couple purchased a New York penthouse while the subway project was happening. However, the subway project had ended before the LLC we’ve tied to them purchased two Connecticut homes worth millions. Their daughter and youngest son graduated from high schools out east after the subway project’s completion.

To be sure, it’s not unusual for wealthy people to own multiple houses and navigate among them. There’s no crime in being rich; it’s the American dream. One is tempted to say that Michels could respond, “So what? I own a vacation home in Connecticut,” even though it is a large one.

Tim michels home
Photo courtesy of realtor. Com

However, the fact that Michels’ juvenile children lived in New York City and Connecticut for nine years, attending high school there, makes that harder to believe (and Michels has provided no explanation.) The three children were heavily involved in tennis, yachting, and swimming during their high school years out east.

Dartmouth University lists the hometown for Michels’ youngest son, who graduated from high school in 2021, as Riverside, Connecticut, the location of the $17 million home. The Dartmouth bio says he graduated from Brunswick High in Greenwich. He was in many sailing competitions as a student there. His yacht’s home port is New York. That’s just for starters.

Tim michels home


The campaign has painted Michels as a blue-collar figure rooted in Wisconsin who baled hay as a kid, graduated from small-town Lomira High School, joined the Army, and then worked for the family company headquartered in Brownsville, Wisconsin. In his announcement speech, Michels stood before red utility vehicles and posed with construction workers. An east coast lifestyle full of yachting and polo clubs is clearly not the image the campaign is after.

Tim and Barbara Michels still own a New York penthouse along E. 68th St that they purchased in 2015 for $8.7 million. Built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1931, it’s just steps away from Park Avenue. That residence’s purchase is recorded in Timothy Michels’ name.

Tim michels home
Courtesy of google maps

 


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However, that changed in 2017 after the subway project had wound to a close. The next homes were purchased by the obscurely named LLC. The same LLC that we’ve tied to the couple first purchased a home in exclusive Greenwich, a bedroom community for celebrities and millionaires who commute to Manhattan. The LLC purchased that four-bedroom, five-bath home in December 2017 for $4.6 million. Because it’s in an LLC, it’s hard to trace ownership.

The LLC then traded up, purchasing the $17 million house in Riverside, Connecticut, a neighborhood of Greenwich, in 2020. They sold the first Greenwich home in April 2021 for $6.5 million.

Tim michels home

Tim michels homeWe are not naming the LLC for their privacy. We are also not revealing the address of their current Connecticut home.

The building permit below reveals that Tim and Barbara Michels own the $17 million Riverside home. We obtained the document from the town of Greenwich, which included it in a trove of public records when the owners sought to build a tennis court last August.

Tim michels home

Barbara Michels listed the $17 million home as her “residential street address” when she made a campaign donation in December 2021, and she listed the couple’s Manhattan penthouse as her address when she made a campaign donation in 2020. However, Tim Michels has used the couple’s Hartland, Wisconsin, address on his campaign donations.

Tim michels home

Tim michels home

The couple still owns a Hartland, Wisconsin home and lot worth over $5 million. They moved the Wisconsin home under a similarly named LLC in 2017, county records show, although it’s not clear why.

It’s not easy to find details on the Connecticut home. We’ve found that 31 of 32 photos of the $17 million home were deleted from MLS, although it’s not clear when. They’re still present on Realtor.com. A call to the property tax authority confirmed the LLC still owns it.

 

The LLC used to purchase the Connecticut homes lists a Milwaukee lawyer as its registered agent. Documents show that it’s managed under another LLC by a woman named “S. Philomena Winter.” These actions made it extremely difficult to trace ownership. For example, if you look up property records, you get the name of the LLC only. In short, its ownership is hidden through two layers of LLCs.

Tim michels home

The initial made Winter hard to trace. However, we’ve discovered a Susan Philomena Winter is an accounting manager at Michels Corp.Tim michels home

However, architectural documents in the Town of Greenwich packet describe it as the “Michels Residence.”

Tim michels home

According to the latest available Connecticut tax records, multiple vehicles and trailers are registered to Barbara in Connecticut, and, in one case, a vehicle is registered to Timothy and Barbara Michels. One, an Aston DBX, goes for $200,000.

Tim michels home

There are many ways to document that the children, while juveniles, lived in Connecticut and New York during their high school years. We won’t present all of that documentation in the interest of their privacy. For the same reason, we have blurred their faces and aren’t naming them, even though some of them have appeared in the media before.

The two youngest children, now in college, attended Connecticut and New York City high schools for their entire high school years. The oldest child graduated from Xavier High School in New York City in 2016 (he started attending that school in 2013); the daughter graduated from Marymount School of New York in 2019; and the youngest son graduated from Brunswick High School in Greenwich in 2021. A call to each school confirmed none of them are boarding schools.

By way of example, the eldest son played on the tennis team for Xavier High School in New York in 2014, was quoted in a New York television story as a student there in 2015, and posted photos and a video showing he graduated from Xavier in 2016. The daughter’s Marymount swimming team listed her hometown as New York as far back as 2015. All three kids then attended colleges out east.

It’s confusing why Michels would have lived in Wisconsin the past nine years if his family was living in Connecticut and New York during the kids’ formative high school years. The family members appear close, and his daughter suffered from brain cancer during that time.

Barbara spoke at his announcement press conference, and Tim Michels told WISN-1130 host Mark Belling that she is the only person who influences him. The family members were photographed together standing on a New York City street in 2016.

Tim michels home

Barbara’s Facebook page shows that her likes focus almost entirely on east coast interests, including Hillsong Church Connecticut, Brant Beach Yacht Club in New Jersey, NYC Polo Club, and Marymount School of New York. However, her page claims she lives in Chenequa, and one of her “likes” is an inland yachting group in Wisconsin.

Tim michels home

We attended Michels’ announcement in Brownsville, Wisconsin, but his campaign’s spokesperson, Brian Fraley, ordered us to go behind a cordon in the back of the room before Michels arrived, where the media were kept in abeyance and prevented from asking any questions. After his speech, Michels signed autographs at a rope line in a large garage at Michels Corp.

We were promised we would get answers to all of our questions several times, including by Fraley at that event. We also asked Michels for his position on issues conservatives care about, like right to work, unions, and prevailing wage.

Tim michels home

Frankly, we were not sure we would write this story at first. We were hoping there was a simple explanation and that the campaign would provide it forthrightly. The opposite happened.

Tim michels home

We have received no response.


‘Proud to Live in Wisconsin’

Despite the east coast homes and high schools, Michels has stated that the family lives in Wisconsin. In a press conference in March 2022, just weeks before he announced a run for governor, Michels and his family members stressed their Wisconsin ties to the news media.

“We’re proud to live in Wisconsin,” Tim Michels said, announcing a major family donation, this time to the Medical College of Wisconsin honoring his daughter’s brain tumor recovery. A CBS-58 story referred to them as a “Dodge County family.”

“You don’t have to go to New York or Europe or anywhere to get the first-rate treatment that there is right here in Milwaukee, right here on this campus with Froedtert and Children’s and MCW,” Michels said. “This is as good as oncology and cancer research anywhere in the world.”

The daughter’s story is a moving one. She was a student in Wisconsin when she collapsed at age 11, in 2012, at a parent-teacher conference. “Doctors at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, diagnosed choroid plexus carcinoma (CPC), a rare, slow-growing cancer that starts deep in the brain,” the Weill Cornell story says. The first Michels’ child started attending a New York high school the following year.

Despite the fact that she attended high school in New York and college in Massachusetts, the couple’s daughter told the Milwaukee press in March, “This is home so being able to get treated for my cancer right here in Milwaukee was amazing.”

The tumor returned in 2017, while the family “was living in the New York area,” and a New York doctor treated her with a “groundbreaking” technique, the Cornell article says.

We asked the campaign whether the daughter’s health factored into any decision to live in New York, but they wouldn’t answer that question, either. If Michels claimed Wisconsin residency on his taxes and to vote, saying he moved to New York for his daughter’s treatment could pose a problem.

Residency can be a complicated matter.

Although a person does not have to be physically present in one state or always live there to establish Wisconsin residency for tax purposes, they must show they have not abandoned their old domicile or taken actions “consistent with such intent,” that they have not intended to acquire a new domicile, and that they are not physically present in the new domicile. [2019-Form1NPR-inst]

See the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s rules for legal residency.

People’s domiciles don’t change if they leave Wisconsin “for a brief rest or vacation” or to complete a transaction or contract. Michels Corp. received a $201 million contract to work on a massive tunneling project involving the New York subway system, we’ve learned, around the time the first Michels’ child started attending high school there, but that contract ran only from 2013-2016.

Proof of residency is required to vote. However, intent to return can complicate matters; it’s often meant for college students.

“Under Wisconsin Statutes, an individual must reside in an election ward for at least 28 consecutive days before the election and have no present intent to move. A person does not lose residency for voting purposes by leaving an established residence for temporary purposes with the intent to return to the residence,” says a Wisconsin election guidance document student_residency_guide_pdf_17201, noting, “It is not necessary that there be an intention to remain permanently at the voting residence. It is sufficient that the place is for the time being the home of the voter to the exclusion of other places. Once established, a person’s residency is presumed to continue until a new one is established. A voter’s statements and actions alone can establish intent.”

Our Unanswered Questions Sent to Michels’ Campaign

These are the questions we sent Michels’ campaign on April 24, 2022.

Mr. Michels’ 3 kids were in New York area schools from at least 2015-2021 as far as we can tell. Xavier, Brunswick I think. Is that accurate? Which schools and years?

Does his family still live in New York area?

Did he live in New York area (New York City? Riverside/Greenwich CT?) or did he live in Wisconsin? Or both?

Did he buy a house/condo/property in New York City? when? How about CT? When and where?

What year did the family move to New York area. Did the whole family move?

Which state did he claim residency for voting purposes from 2012-present and which state for tax purposes?

We heard the company kept meticulous logs to show how much time he spent in Wisconsin, to show he lived in Wisconsin the required amount of time, is this true and could we see copies of those? Could we see the tax records too?

Why did they move to New York? Was it due to the New York subway project? What was his role in that?

Where did Michels live primarily, and how much of the year? Why did he not live full time with his family if he did not.

What role did his daughter’s health treatments play in this. We find her story inspiring.

Is there anything you think voters should know about this?

“We would like to get Mr. Michels’ contextual answers on this to present it fairly,” we wrote. But we received no response.

We wrote Fraley again and asked when we would be getting a response, but he did not respond.

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Tim Michels Spent

Tim Michels Spent More Than Any Other Wisconsin Republican Statewide Candidates & Officeholders

Wisconsin Republican statewide candidates and officeholders have spent $20.7 million during the 2022 election cycle. Among statewide officials and candidates, Tim Michels has spent more than any other Republican.

Michels is running for Governor of Wisconsin in 2022. Michels raised $12.0 million and spent $10.6 million between Jan. 1, 2021, and July 25, 2022. According to Wisconsin Ethics Commission reports, Michels spent the most money with the following individual payees and PACs.

Tim Michels’s Top 10 Payees, (1/1/2021 – 7/25/2022)

Of the $10.6 million in reported expenditures, $10.2 million went to these 10 payees:

Total ExpendituresNameType$8,333,487Ad Victory LLCENTITY$1,072,811Imge LLCENTITY$237,653Red Maverick Media LLCENTITY$163,056Something Else Strategies LLCENTITY$122,000Public Opinion Strategies LLCENTITY$97,659Ls Consulting LLCENTITY$76,835Michels CorporationENTITY$62,177Leverage Public StrategiesENTITY$38,196Cls Services IncENTITY$28,096Adp IncENTITY

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Wisconsin PACs submitted to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines. State or federal law may require filers to submit additional reports.

See updates to Tim Michels’s campaign finance data after the next reports are available.

Report NameReport Due Date2022 Jan Semiannual1/18/20222022 Spring Pre-Primary2/7/20222022 Spring Pre-Election3/28/20222022 Jul Semiannual7/15/20222022 Fall Pre-Primary8/1/20222022 Sept Data9/27/20222022 Fall Pre-General10/31/20222023 Jan Semiannual1/7/2023

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.

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Johnson Campaign: Barnes Goes From Criticizing Police to Depending on Them

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. senator says his opponent has gone from demonizing police to relying on them 13-and-a-half hours-a-day.

Mandela Barnes, the state’s current lieutenant governor and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, is facing questions after another report about his expensive and almost constant security costs.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week that Barnes has racked-up over $600,000 in security costs during his first three years in office. That’s 10-times more expensive than Wisconsin’s last lieutenant governor.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign says the security comes after years of anti-police rhetoric from Barnes.

“Lt. Gov. Barnes has spent years vilifying the same law enforcement professionals that he leans on at unprecedented levels,” campaign spokesman Alec Zimmerman told The Center Square. “Liberal leaders like Barnes who have supported the defund the police movement are exactly why cops around Wisconsin are leaving the profession and police departments statewide have struggled to recruit more officers.”

Barnes’ campaign has said for months that he does not support the Defund the Police movement. But many of Barnes’ donors and politicians who support him do.

The Washington Free Beacon reported on Barnes’s donors, and his speech last year for a group that created DefundthePolice.org.

But those aren’t Barnes’ only comments about the police.

He seemingly blamed the police for the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha in the summer of 2020.

“This was not an accident,” Barnes said during a news conference the day after the shooting. “This wasn’t bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta being taken out on a member of our community. The officer’s deadly actions attempted to take a person’s life in broad daylight.”

Barnes also mocked the police during a September 2020 podcast with a writer from The Atlantic.

“What are police officers actually threatened by? What threatens them in actuality?” Barnes asked. “Is it a person who is walking the street who claims to be some sort of militia member with a long-rifle assault-style weapon? Or is it somebody who is unarmed and Black? Who is more frightening to you?”

Barnes has not answered questions about his security costs, or why he needs long periods of protection on weekdays, weekend, holidays, at church, and at campaign events.

“Barnes used 13,971 man hours of State Patrol Protection when the force was already stretched thin. That’s 8,760 hours in a year. Barnes used the equivalent of about 1.6 years worth of 24-coverage,” Johnson’s campaign added. “The State Patrol has 301 officers. Barnes diverted nearly 14,000 man-hours away from other law enforcement duties.”

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US Border Patrol Chief in Sworn Testimony: Southern Border ‘Is Currently in a Crisis’

As part of ongoing litigation against the Biden administration, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody continues to uncover what she calls “damning evidence” about the consequences stemming from Biden administration policies changing federal immigration laws.

Moody’s chief deputy on July 28 deposed U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, who testified under oath that the Biden administration purposely reduced U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention capacity and changed the removal process of people illegally in the U.S.

While a complete transcript of Ortiz' deposition was made public, part of his testimony is transcribed here.

When asked, “would you agree that the southern border is currently in crisis,” Ortiz replied, “Yes.” When asked, “Would you agree that unprecedented number of aliens are entering the United States right now,” he replied, “Yes.”

When asked, “Are the individuals that are turning themselves in doing so because they believe they are going to be paroled?” He replied, “I would imagine they think they are going to be released, yes.”

“Would you agree the aliens who cite favorable immigration policy as a reason to come to the United States are perceiving what is actually happening in the United States,” he replied, “Yes.”

“When President Biden was elected did the number of aliens trying to illegally enter the United States increase or decrease?” He replied, “Increase.”

“What is currently going on at the border, is it making it less safe for Americans and aliens at the border alike?” He waited a while to respond and answered, “Yes.”

“From your 31 years of experience, has the Border Patrol in a year ever had the number of encounters it’s going to have in 2022?” He replied, “No.”

When asked why it is important to detain and remove individuals who are in-admittable, he replied, “You want to make sure you have consequences.”

“And if you don’t have consequences, what is likely going to happen?” he was asked. He replied, “In my experience we have seen increases [of illegal entry] when there are no consequences.”

When asked if “migrant populations believe there aren’t going to be consequences, more of them will come to the border, is that what you are saying?” He replied, “There’s an assumption that if migrant populations are told that there’s a potential that they may be released that yes, you can see increases.”

Throughout the questioning, Ortiz moved around a lot in his chair, rubbed his forehead and appeared to be uncomfortable, according to an edited video recording of his deposition.

His attorney objected to every single question he was asked before he ever replied.

Of his responses, Moody said, “After the Biden administration denied that they were engaged in catch-and-release, and that they were responsible for the historic surge at our southern border, Florida got the Chief of Border Patrol to admit, under oath, the truth. The Biden administration caused the surge, made the border less safe, and is flagrantly violating the very federal laws they swore to uphold. The Biden administration is putting hard-working border patrol agents in impossible and untenable positions – risking their lives and safety, and I want to thank Chief Ortiz for testifying truthfully at his deposition.”

The deposition was part of a lawsuit filed by the state of Florida against the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies claiming they failed to enforce federal law. For example, one law not being enforced is the Immigration and Nationality Act, according to the lawsuit. It requires federal agents to detain inadmissible foreign nationals who’ve entered the U.S. illegally and repatriate them to the country of their citizenship. Instead, those who would normally be deported are being released into the U.S., according to Customs and Border Patrol data.

During the last full month of the Trump administration, Border Patrol agents released 17 foreign nationals who’d illegally entered the U.S. into the interior instead of deporting them, pending resolution of their cases. But within six months of Biden taking office, federal agents released more than 60,000 illegal foreign nationals into the U.S. in one month.

According to federal documents provided to Florida during the discovery phase of the case, DHS disclosed that there were more than 48,000 foreign nationals illegally in the U.S. who indicated they were traveling to Florida and who failed to check in with ICE.

The federal government has no idea where they are “even though most of them are legally inadmissible,” Moody said.

The lawsuit points to revised DHS policy that directs federal agents to release family units and/or single adults from certain countries into the interior of the U.S. even though they were likely inadmissible and should have been deported according to federal law. After entering the U.S. illegally, federal agents didn’t fully process them or require them to report within a specific time period to an ICE facility for further processing, according to the lawsuit.

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A new whistleblower report signed by nine officers across five branches of the military claims the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is unlawful.

The report was sent to Congress urging an investigation into what it called illegal and fraudulent activity by the DOD. The memorandum was published by Liberty Council, a nonprofit legal group that in January maintained there was no legal COVID-19 vaccine available despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration saying there was.

The officers alleged in the Aug. 15 memorandum that the DOD has unlawfully administered emergency use authorized (EUA) products as if they were fully licensed FDA-approved products. Military regulations state service members have a legal right to refuse EUA products.

Although the FDA issued approval for Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine in August 2021, none of the FDA-approved vaccines were available. FDA documents dated November 2021 stated: “In the U.S., there are no licensed vaccines or antiviral drugs for the prevention of COVID-19.”

Furthermore, the FDA said the EUA-authorized Pfizer vaccines were “legally distinct” from the FDA-approved Comirnaty vaccines that were unavailable for service members in the U.S.

“The licensed vaccine has the same formulation as the EUA-authorized vaccine and the products can be used interchangeably to provide the vaccination series without presenting any safety or effectiveness concerns. The products are legally distinct with certain differences that do not impact safety or effectiveness,” the FDA said.

The National Institutes of Health confirmed no fully approved products were available in an announcement posted in September 2021.

Despite only having EUA products available, service members who did not want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine said the DOD still illegally mandated them to be vaccinated.

“The DoD cannot claim ignorance with regard to the legal differences between an EUA product and a licensed product that purports to be medically interchangeable but has not become statutorily interchangeable,” the officers wrote in the whistleblower report.

There are several pending legal cases against military vaccine mandates in which federal judges have granted preliminary injunctions for service members who do not wish to be vaccinated.

The ability to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine due to religious objections has been predominantly denied to service members. Of the 24,818 religious exemption requests received, only four were granted. Four thousand one hundred forty-six medical exemptions were granted. Military regulations state service members have a right to refuse vaccination on religious grounds or for medical reasons, including natural immunity from previous infection.

The report said that through legal battles over the past year, the DOD has pivoted to state that Pfizer EUA vaccines were compliant with Biologics License Application (BLA) requirements. The officers say the EUA products are not compliant with BLA requirements because they don’t match the BLA-approved product label.

Concerns have been raised over the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. A lawyer representing another whistleblower alleged the prevalence of multiple medical conditions has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 vaccines were introduced, including a 2,181% increase in hypertension, a 1,048% increase in nervous system diseases, and more.

“The military is hemorrhaging outstanding military men and women of conscience, who are attempting to defend the rule of law at great personal cost. The DoD has unlawfully discharged thousands of service members for exercising their legal right to decline emergency use products. Ensuring timely DoD adherence to U.S. law requires Congressional action. As the oversight authority, you have the ability to investigate the HHS Secretary’s recurring declarations of emergency, as well as potential crimes associated with unlawful administration of EUA products and biologic product labeling fraud. Failure to take swift action will cause continued, irreversible harm to the basic human rights of American citizens while further damaging our national security,” the whistleblower report said.

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