Bill Gates Dished About Trump — And Why He Turned Him Down For A Job

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Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is no stranger to President Trump — the two have met several times over the past 15 months. And apparently, during one recent sit-down, Trump asked Bill Gates to join his administration as his science adviser. Gates' response? No thanks.

To quote him verbatim, Gates told STAT, a health and science publication, that he replied to Trump's job offer with, "That's not a good use of my time."

If that sounds like a coolly delivered diss, hold on. Because Gates went on to characterize his interchange with Trump as one not necessarily earnest on either side. "It was a friendly thing. He was being friendly," Gates told STAT, during an interview published Monday, after noting he's not sure if Trump's offer of the science adviser position "was a serious thing or not."

But while Trump's job offer may have been strictly "friendly," the fact that no science adviser has been assigned since Trump took office is a serious matter. During his interview with STAT, Gates highlighted the threat of a global pandemic and the absolute need for preparedness — especially from the United States. "The capacity to build the tools that would help you be prepared for a big pandemic — the U.S. is really the only country that’s got a broad set of those tools," he said he told the president.

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One of the topics Gates said he tried to get Trump on board with is developing a universal flu vaccine. As Politico reports, Gates has ponied up $12 million in funding for research to hopefully create a vaccine that would be effective against any strain of flu. In pushing Trump to align himself and his legacy with "American innovation," Gates says he told the president, "Wouldn’t you love to have the universal flu vaccine be something that really got kicked off and energized by you?"

Gates — who became the world's richest man for a time after Microsoft went public in 1995 — has long made global health issues a top priority. He founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife in the year 2000, and the organization has ever since been after its goal of helping "every person get the chance to live a healthy, productive life."

To that end, Gates has donated a huge sum of his money to various charities and organizations working to bring better health care and education to underserved populations. And along with Warren Buffet, the Gates' founded The Giving Pledge — a promise signed onto by 175 other millionaires and billionaires thus far to donate at least half their wealth before they die.

Gates also told STAT his decision to keep his organization apolitical has been purposeful. When asked if the latest election has tempted Gates to perhaps throw his money into the political ring, Gates said no. Specifically, he cited his organization's success in bringing childhood mortality down from 11 million in 2000 to 5 million annually today. "If there are people who’ve used political lobbying to save that many lives then maybe I missed a trick,” Gates noted wryly.

And Trump wasn't the only president who came up during the interview. Gates also critiqued President Obama for not doing enough, in Gates' view, to prepare for a potential pandemic. "Pandemic preparedness, during those eight years: What’s your favorite thing that happened? Name it!” Gates told STAT, with the website noting he became "animated" on the subject.

Obama did have a science adviser during his eight years in the Oval Office — John P. Holdren. In fact, Holdren wrote an op-ed for STAT arguing that the position is key to good counsel on economics, national defense, and foreign policy.

Perhaps Gates will be able to convince Trump to fill that position — with someone besides himself, of course.