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Trump calls Fauci a "disaster" but says it would be "a bigger bomb to fire him"

Trump attacks Fauci, calling him a "disaster"
Trump derides Fauci as "disaster" as experts warn pandemic could worsen in weeks ahead 03:10

In a call with Trump campaign staff Monday, President Trump tore into the nation's leading infectious diseases expert and coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying people have become tired of "Fauci and all these idiots" warning about the risks of COVID-19.

"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," the president told his staff Monday during a call on the state-of-play of the race. "Fauci's a nice guy. He's been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong. And he's like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage, telling us how he said, 'Do not wear face masks' — that's a number of months ago." 

Mr. Trump said if the White House had listened to Fauci, the U.S. would have "500,000 deaths." 

"I have a list of 15 things, this guy. And yet, we keep him. Every time he goes on television, there's always a bomb," he said. "But there's a bigger bomb if you fire him."

The president went on to declare, "We saved 2.2 million people. If we didn't do what we did, and close it and do just — now we're opening it. But we'd never close it again. It would never close, it'll never close again. Because we know the disease," an apparent reference to his partial ban on travel to the U.S. from China early this year.

"But Fauci, if we listened to him, we'd have 700, 800,000 deaths right now," the president said.

Since the pandemic began, more than 8 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 219,000 have died.

Asked about the president's remarks, Fauci told KNX Radio: "I would prefer not to comment on that and just get on with what we're really trying to do, and what we're trying to do is to protect the health and the welfare and the safety of the American people predominantly, and ultimately the world."

At the beginning of the pandemic, Fauci, who is head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended against routinely wearing masks, but that was in part because he was concerned there would be a shortage of surgical masks for healthcare workers. A month later, he reversed course after scientists were finding that people without symptoms were a significant source of spread, and that masks, even homemade ones, could help stop transmission. 

"It became clear that cloth coverings ... and not necessarily a surgical mask or an N95, cloth coverings, work. So, now there's no longer a shortage of masks," Fauci said in an interview with CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook that aired Sunday on "60 Minutes." He added that "meta-analysis studies show that, contrary to what we thought, masks really do work in preventing infection."

While Fauci has been consistently calling for the use of masks for months, the White House messaging on mask-wearing has been less consistent. Mr. Trump and White House officials do not always wear masks, even at crowded events like Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, which Fauci has called a "super-spreader" event. He told LaPook that he's not surprised the president contracted coronavirus given his participation at crowded events where few people wore masks. 

Fauci on his media restrictions, Trump contracting COVID, masks, voting and more 13:38

The president continued to go after Fauci Monday after the campaign call concluded and he apparently saw coverage of the call, slamming the doctor for not being great at baseball, a reference to Fauci's first pitch on Opening Day of the MLB season in July.

"Dr.Tony Fauci says we don't allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said 'no masks & let China in'. Also, Bad arm!" the president tweeted

"...P.S. Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals' Mask for two reasons. Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing. Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!" the president continued. 

Mr. Trump has publicly criticized Fauci before, while calling him a "nice guy." Last week, Mr. Trump called Fauci a "Democrat," even though Fauci is not registered to either major political party and says he has never endorsed any candidate.

Without mentioning Mr. Trump, Senator Lamar Alexander, the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Health Committee, issued a statement in defense of Fauci. 

"Dr. Fauci is one of our country's most distinguished public servants," Alexander said. "He has served six presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we'd have fewer cases of COVID-19, and it would be safer to go back to school and back to work and out to eat."

The president also noted that he's holding big rallies, even as COVID-19 continues to ravage the country.

"People are tired of COVID. I have the biggest rallies I've ever had, and we have COVID. People are saying, 'Whatever, just leave us alone.' They're tired of it," he said. 

On Monday, Mr. Trump also predicted he's going to win reelection and seemed to suggest he has greater confidence now than he did two or three weeks ago, which was when he contracted the coronavirus and was subsequently hospitalized.

"We're going to win. I wouldn't have said that three weeks ago," the president told campaign staff. "Three weeks ago, two weeks ago, I don't know, I wouldn't have said it. It was tougher for me. But when we're leading in Michigan in the early vote, that's unheard of."

CBS News polling shows the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden nationally, as well as in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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