A major question for Marine Gen. James Mattis (Ret.) while being considered for key roles in the White House will likely focus on his dealings with the fraudulent blood-testing company Theranos.
Gen. Mattis is the said to be President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate for secretary of defense. “General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is being considered for Secretary of Defense, was very impressive yesterday. A true General’s General!,” Trump tweeted, after their Nov. 20 meeting. The two men reportedly met for over an hour, according to reports.
Mattis possesses impressive credentials. During his 44-year tenure in the Marine Corps, Mattis earned the rank of four-star general, led a task force in Afghanistan in 2001 and a Marine division during the Iraq invasion in 2003; he was also an integral part of the Battle of Falluja in 2004.
Stellar credentials and experience notwithstanding, the involvement of Mattis with the scandal-ridden company Theranos could negatively impact his vetting process.
Theranos manufactures finger-prick devices that provide automated, miniaturized blood tests which use a fraction of the blood that traditional vile-based blood tests require. The company faced harsh scrutiny in October, as reports surfaced that Theranos devices were giving inaccurate results and leading to major health problems. It was also learned that the company actively mislead investors about the viability of the firm.
Four years prior to these reports, an official at the Department of Defense (DOD) requested a formal investigation into Theranos’s blood-testing device with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after the company was accused of intending to distribute the medical technology without FDA approval, the Post reports. Theranos is undergoing the process of getting the seal of approval from the FDA, which forced the firm to stop offering the majority of its tests.
When the chief executive of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, found out about the concerns raised by the defense official, she wrote an email to Gen. Mattis asking him to intervene and support her company by calling the allegations “blatantly false information.”
Holmes and Mattis’ relationship predates the email correspondence. The two met at a 2011 Marine Memorial function, and Mattis told Holmes he might be interested in testing Theranos’s technology on the battlefield. Mattis was convinced that Theranos’s technology was a “game-changer,” and the two began speaking monthly about how Holmes could get her devices into the hands of the military.
When Holmes raised her concerns with Mattis about the military official who asked for the device to be investigated by the FDA, Mattis responded within hours by forwarding her inquiry to military officials, asking “how do we overcome this obstacle,” the Post reports. The general sought a field test, but it was never executed.
Two months after he retired in 2013, Mattis asked to join the board of Theronas and was approved.
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