Fauci, who once took a starring role in the response and briefed the president almost every day as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described a disjointed response as cases surge. Several current and former senior administration officials said the White House is almost entirely focused on a vaccine, even though experts warn it is unlikely to be a silver bullet that ends the pandemic immediately since it will take months under the best of circumstances to inoculate tens of millions of people to achieve herd immunity.
Officials told governors on a call Friday that they hoped to begin distributing a vaccine by the end of the year, giving some specific guidance on how states would receive their first doses. Fauci focused on the rise in cases, according to people familiar with the call.
Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force meets less frequently and has far less influence as the president and his top advisers have focused on reopening the country. “Right now, the public health aspect of the task force has diminished greatly,” he said.
Fauci said he and Deborah Birx, coronavirus task force coordinator, no longer have regular access to the president and he has not spoken to Trump since early October. “The last time I spoke to the president was not about any policy; it was when he was recovering in Walter Reed, he called me up,” he said. Fauci said he phones into meetings of other staffers but largely avoids the West Wing because “of all the infections there.”
He also lamented that Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and Trump’s favored pandemic adviser, who advocates letting the virus spread among young healthy people and reopening the country without restrictions, is the only medical adviser the president regularly meets with.
“I have real problems with that guy,” Fauci said of Atlas. “He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Fauci said he actually appreciated chief of staff Mark Meadows saying last weekend on CNN that the administration was not going to control the pandemic. “I tip my hat to him for admitting the strategy,” he said. “He is straightforward in telling you what’s on his mind. I commend him for that.”
At this point, don't be surprised if Fauci is silenced completely or even fired after the election. (Trump even suggested he would do so "a few days after the election" at one of his rallies last night.)
At one point during the interview, Fauci said he needed to be careful with his words because he would be blocked from doing appearances in the future.
Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, offered blistering criticism of Fauci for his comments in a statement to The Washington Post on Saturday. Deere said Fauci “knows the risks [from the coronavirus] today are dramatically lower than they were only a few months ago.”
“It’s unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force and someone who has praised President Trump’s actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics,” Deere said. “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.”
Deere added that the president “always put the well-being of the American people first,” citing his decision to cut off travel from China, his early shutdown of the country and his mobilization of the private sector to deliver critical supplies and develop treatments and vaccines.
President Donald Trump and his top aides are planning a huge overhaul of his Cabinet if he wins a second term, scuttling officials in key health-related and intelligence jobs who Trump views as disloyal, slow-acting or naysayers.
The shift would amount to a purge of any Cabinet member who has crossed the president, refused to mount investigations he has demanded, or urged him to take a different, more strict tack on the coronavirus response.
The evictions could run the gamut from senior health officials to much of the national security leadership. Already, the White House and administration officials have started to vet names of health care experts who could take over the agencies running many elements of the government’s pandemic response and overseeing the country’s health insurance system, according to two Republicans close to the White House. And the president is eying a remake of leadership at the FBI, CIA and Pentagon, exasperated with what he perceives as unwillingness to investigate his preferred subjects or take on the government’s “deep state.”
This personnel overhaul of the Trump Cabinet at the start of a second term would mirror the turnover his administration has already experienced during his first four years. Of the 23 Cabinet-level posts in the Trump White House, only seven officials lasted all four years. Many, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, had public and contentious departures. And it would represent a fully unencumbered Trump, no longer constrained by political considerations or pushback from Congress.
“I can only imagine the score-settling Trump would undertake if he won,” said one Republican close to the White House about the potential Cabinet shakeup.
235,000 Americans and counting are already dead, and hundreds of thousands more will follow in the weeks and months ahead, regardless of who wins the election. Trump will spend his final days in power making those who chose to vote him out of office suffer, win or lose.
So, if you're somehow still on the fence over your vote on Tuesday, for the love of God, vote for Biden.
Four more years of Trump will kill millions of us.