After attacks by Trump aides, Fauci says focus should be on the virus rather than ‘games people are playing.’
As Trump administration officials have increasingly sought to undermine him in recent days, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and one of the most trusted federal officials working on the pandemic, made his most pointed remarks yet on Wednesday addressing tensions with the White House.
“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic on Wednesday. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
He spoke as Trump administration officials have sought to undermine his credibility — first anonymously, over the weekend, and then out in the open. A short op-ed by Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, published in USA Today on Tuesday evening was headlined “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, posted a cartoon Sunday evening mocking Dr. Fauci.
In the interview Wednesday, Dr. Fauci called the partisan environment around the virus disturbing.
“It distracts from what I hope would be the common effort of getting this thing under control, rather than this back-and-forth distraction, which just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Asked to review the government’s response to the pandemic, he said: “We’ve got to almost reset this and say, OK, let’s stop this nonsense and figure out how can we get our control over this now, and looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, because those are the hot zones now, and I’m looking at the map, saying we got to make sure it doesn’t happen in other states.”
“So rather than these games people are playing,” he said, “let’s focus on that.”
Mr. Trump put some distance between himself and his aide’s op-ed piece, saying, “I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.” Others in the administration went further than the president. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Wednesday that the administration “couldn’t be more grateful” for Dr. Fauci’s “steady counsel.”
Alyssa Farah, the White House director for strategic communications, wrote on Twitter. ““The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.”