White House targets Fauci after disagreeing with Trump over virus

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In a statement released on Saturday, a White House official told CNN that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong.” The official then provided a long list of examples, citing Fauci’s comments at the start of the pandemic and a link to past interviews.

These points, which looked like opposition research on a political opponent, included Fauci minimizing the virus from the start and a quote from March where Fauci said, “People shouldn’t walk around in masks”, among others comments.

The White House decision comes when President Donald Trump and Fauci are not speaking. The tension between the two men increased publicly as the two men responded with interviews and statements.

“As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say that we are doing very well. I mean, we just aren’t, “said Fauci in an interview. In another, Fauci responded to the president’s assertion that “99%” of coronavirus cases in the United States were “completely harmless,” saying he did not know where the president got the number, and suggesting that Trump’s interpretation was “obviously not the case”. . “Trump began to publicly criticize Fauci on national television.

“Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he made a lot of mistakes,” said Trump last week, undermining the public health expert that Americans say in polls they trust more than the president.

In recent interviews, he openly questioned the advice he had received from Fauci at the start of the epidemic.

“I think we are in a good position. I don’t agree with him, “said Trump in an interview on Tuesday when asked about Fauci’s claim that the United States is still” on its knees in the first wave “of the pandemic.

A senior administration official told CNN that some White House officials did not trust Fauci. According to the source, these officials believe that Fauci does not have the best interest of the president, highlighting interviews where he openly disagrees with what Trump said.

Other administration officials told CNN that although they disagree with Fauci’s methods, they did not doubt his motives and that his only concern was public health.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said on Sunday evening that any White House effort to set aside or discredit Fauci is “just excruciating.”

Schiff told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” that such a move “is so characteristic of Donald Trump. He cannot bear the fact that the American people trust Dr. Fauci and that they do not trust Donald Trump – and so he must demolish him. ”

“More than ever, we need people to tell the truth in power, to be able to put themselves at the level of the American people on what we are facing with this pandemic, how to control it, how to protect ourselves and our families”, continued Schiff. . “This is what Dr. Fauci tried to do and by marginalizing him, the President is once again interfering with an effective response to this pandemic. ”

In response to questions about the White House appearing to actively discredit Fauci, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for Health and Social Services Michael Caputo said there was no White House account against the scientists and made a statement.

“We have great confidence in the ability of all of our scientists and physicians in the coronavirus working group to deliver the necessary public health information. People like Admiral (Brett) Giroir, General Surgeon (Jerome) Adams and others convey these messages very effectively, “Caputo said in the statement, although he did not answer questions directly about Fauci .

Fauci did not return a request for comment from CNN.

This story has been updated with comments from Representative Adam Schiff.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this story.

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