Trump accused Fauci of waffling on early decisions in the crisis, saying he was better off ignoring experts and trusting his instincts
Months into the still-raging pandemic of COVID-19 that has claimed the lives of over 130,000 Americans, the tensions between President Donald Trump and the health experts who staff his government have moved from private griping to a full-blown open dispute.
This has resulted in a new sense of demoralization as they continue their attempts to fight a once-in-a-generation health crisis while simultaneously navigating the whims of a President who has shown little interest and understanding of their work.
Trump makes it obvious that he does not trust nor follow the advice of disease experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist. He has not attended a meeting of his coronavirus task force in months and recently sessions have been held outside the White House, including the headquarters of the Department of Education. Fauci was told to participate in the meeting remotely by video conference, preventing him from participating in a midday task force press briefing.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said later that it’s a “decision for the task force” who appears at coronavirus briefings. Asked if the President still has confidence in Fauci, McEnany said that Trump “has confidence in the conclusions of our medical experts.”
Yet as cases surge across the country and Trump’s handling of the crisis causes his reelection prospects to dim, he is taking his quarrels with Fauci and the CDC public in striking new fashion.
The development bodes poorly for those hoping the federal government’s response to the virus will become more coordinated as daily case counts continue setting records and other countries bar Americans from entry.
Contrary to the hopes of the citizens that the response of the president will be more coordinated with that of the CDC, Trump is signaling that after months of internal disputes and private griping about the officials tasked with combating the virus, he is now prepared to openly question their authority and undermine their advice.
“I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him,” Trump said in an interview when questioned about Fauci’s assertion the US is still “knee-deep in the first wave” of the pandemic.
“Dr. Fauci said don’t wear masks and now he says wear them. And he said numerous things. Don’t close off China. Don’t ban China. I did it anyway. I didn’t listen to my experts and I banned China. We would have been in much worse shape. You wouldn’t believe the number of deaths more we would have had if we didn’t do the ban.”
A day after criticizing Dr. Fauci, President Trump accused the CDC of producing “very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” he said, expressing his disagreement with the health agency’s recommendations. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things, I will be meeting with them!!!”
A few hours later after the rant, Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would issue a new guidance on reopening schools and said they shouldn’t be viewed as a barrier to returning children to classrooms.
When Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, advised Trump to keep lockdown recommendations in place at the start of April, he agreed.
But that appeared to be the height of their influence. Since then, Trump has consistently downplayed their recommendations and rather offered conflicting information about the severity of the outbreak.