President Trump hinted during his final campaign rally late Sunday evening that he might fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert after Election Day.
During his rally in Opa-Locka, FL, Trump railed against the media for its continuous coverage of the coronavirus prompting Floridians to chant loudly "Fire Fauci."
"Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election," Trump told the crowd.
"I appreciate the advice. I appreciate the advice. No, he's been wrong though a lot. He's a nice man though. He's been wrong on a lot," Trump continued.
Trump's comment came after Dr. Fauci on Saturday in an interview with The Washington Post apparently praised Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for "taking [the virus] seriously from a public health perspective," while Trump is "looking at it from a different perspective," from the “economy and reopening the country" stance.
Dr. Fauci remarks drew an angry response from the White House, accused the infectious doctor of playing politics, and bolstering Biden’s campaign a few days before Election Day.
"It's unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President's Coronavirus Taskforce and someone who has praised President Trump's actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a lengthy statement. "As a member of the Task Force, Dr. Fauci has a duty to express concerns or push for a change in strategy, but he's not done that, instead choosing to criticize the president in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the president's opponent— exactly what the American people have come to expect from The Swamp."
The tensions between the two men escalated into the public scene the last three weeks after Dr. Fauci expressed displeasure the Trump campaign used a clip for a campaign ad of remarks praising Trump's handling of the coronavirus. Following his continuous media interviews deriding the campaign ad usage, Dr. Fauci made headlines when he said he was "absolutely not" surprised that Trump contracted a coronavirus.
"I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask," Dr. Fauci said during an interview with CBS 60 Minutes. “When I saw that on TV, I said: 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that. That's got to be a problem.' And then, sure enough, it turned out to be a super-spreader event."
Trump fired back the following morning on Oct 20, first by ripping Dr. Fauci during a heated call with campaign staff, calling the infectious diseases expert an "idiot" and a "disaster" for providing inconsistent advice about the coronavirus pandemic.
"People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong," Trump said." He's been here for 500 years, he called every one of them wrong. Every time he goes on television, there's always a bomb, but there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci is a disaster. I mean, this guy, if I listened to him, we would have 500,000 deaths."
The president continued to slam Dr. Fauci throughout the day on Twitter and during his campaign rallies in Arizona. Shortly after arriving in Prescott, Arizona ahead of his first campaign rally, Trump was asked by reporters why he doesn't consider just firing the doctor.
"I don't want to. I don’t want to hurt him. He's been there for about 350 years. I don't want to hurt him," Trump said in response.
Dr.Fauci, a career civil servant has served as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. He has served as a career federal employee under six presidents, both Republican and Democratic including Trump, protecting him from being fired or demoted for political reasons.
Trump, if reelected can't directly fire Dr. Fauci due to his protection as a federal government employee. The only possible power the president has to remove a career civil servant would be by ordering his political appointees, either HHS Secretary Alex Azar or the Director for the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins to fire Dr. Fauci from the NIH. However, the infectious expert could appeal his remove with the Merit Systems Protection Board and ultimately with federal court, citing he was fired in violation of the civil service rules.
The infectious expert suggests he would continue his role regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election because he wants to see the pandemic through.