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WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday suggested he would fire Anthony Fauci following the presidential election.

As a crowd at a Pennsylvania rally chanted “Fire Fauci,” Trump paused and then responded: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until after the election … he’s a nice man, but he’s been wrong on a lot.”

Trump’s words represent a remarkable escalation of hostilities less than two days before the presidential election. While the president has feuded with Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases researcher, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, he has never directly threatened to dismiss him. Fauci, 79, has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

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Threatening to dismiss a top government researcher on the eve of a presidential election is likely an unprecedented move in American politics. And while it’s not clear whether Trump can legally dismiss Fauci himself, since Fauci is not a political appointee, the president is certainly empowered to remove him from the White House coronavirus task force. There’s also little doubt that the president or a political appointee in his health department could reassign him, as occurred earlier in 2020 with Rick Bright, a scientist who ran a vaccine development agency until his reassignment in May.

The pledge to dismiss Fauci comes amid a broader effort by the White House and the Trump campaign to dismiss the severity of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The U.S. has recorded roughly 80,000 new cases and nearly 1,000 deaths daily in the past week.

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Even in the face of the escalating case count and death toll, Trump has continued to insist that the United States is “rounding the turn” in its Covid-19 response. In the wake of his own bout with the disease in early October, Trump has told Americans that they shouldn’t fear the coronavirus, given the availability of new therapeutics and forthcoming vaccines.

One of the Covid-19 therapies Trump received is an experimental treatment unavailable to Americans outside the context of a clinical trial. And despite Trump’s insistence that a vaccine approval would likely come before Election Day, no drug company has submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration requesting an emergency vaccine authorization.

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has sharply criticized Trump for his continued hostility toward Fauci and his broader skepticism for basic facts spoken by government scientists. Biden has said that if he’s declared the winner, one of his first calls would go to Fauci, asking him to continue his government service.

“Last night Trump said he was going to fire Dr. Fauci,” Biden said Monday at a rally in Cleveland. “Isn’t that wonderful? I’ve got a better idea — elect me and I’m going to hire Dr. Fauci. And we’re going to fire Donald Trump!”

Fauci did not immediately return STAT’s request for comment.

Helen Branswell contributed reporting. 

  • In January and February, some Asian countries and doctors are already saying that the coronavirus is airborne.

    Yet Fauci, Brix and the Surgeon General were saying during the coronavirus daily briefings, after the month of February, that those who are asymptomatic do not have to wear mask. When reporters asked him if getting exposed to covid will offer lifelong immunity, Fauci answer that with other virus, it should offer lifelong immunity. With him and Brix, they also said that young people are “okay” to be exposed to the virus since only older people are more vulnerable to develop severe symptoms.

    A scientist will always err on the side of caution when he face something unknown. Fauci did the opposite and assume the best. I am not sure what his motives for doing this. It is to get more people expose so we can have more data to arrived at a better conclusion.

    Then the reporter in the media who are incapable of doing their own research and sound judgement start worshipping Fauci as god and his words as truth. They start complaining when Fauci is not on daily briefing. A lot of reliable scientific information can be obtained by doing research instead of relying on Fauci who had been giving false information. Now we know that there is a case of reinfection and asymptomatic people are also infectious. Young people who are healthy have also died, some due to their own genes makeup.

    I am not sure what is his motives in saying these things. But people have died because of these carelessness. And now they blame Trump and the people hat they don’t wear mask. How many months did Fauci, Brix and that Surgeon General spend in telling people that they do not need wear mask if they do not have symptoms. How many lives did this cost. If people wear convinced to wear mask early own we would have less fatality from covid19 and less infections.

    Were is the justice for this people who died or who become long covid due to the Brix, Fauci, and the Surgeon General mistakes.

    Taiwan had already warns WHO in December that this cover could be airborne and yet these three are saying the opposite. Why would China asked it people to wear mask on public if this is not airborne.

    Biden as usual is doing what it takes to get voted. Disregarding how harmful it is to the people to keep Fauci involved in this pandemic.

    When Biden son who had an affair with his sister in law as Biden to give a statement of support. Biden said he does not agree with what his sons did but will still give that statement of support. That is not the character of a president.

  • That is not what the president said. It’s not even reporting on, but we all know how the news media grabs onto every little tidbit and runs with it like a dog with a bone.

  • Trump can’t “fire” Dr. Fauci. Yeah, he can nominally “fire” him from the Pence window-dressing “task force” that has long ceased functioning. But Dr. Fauci is not a political appointee.

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