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WH Turns on Fauci,Trump Minimizes Spike07/14 06:30

   With U.S. virus cases spiking and the death toll mounting, the White House 
is working to undercut its most trusted coronavirus expert, playing down the 
danger as President Donald Trump pushes to get the economy moving before he 
faces voters in November.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- With U.S. virus cases spiking and the death toll 
mounting, the White House is working to undercut its most trusted coronavirus 
expert, playing down the danger as President Donald Trump pushes to get the 
economy moving before he faces voters in November.

   The U.S. has become a cautionary tale across the globe, with once-falling 
cases now spiraling. However, Trump suggests the severity of the pandemic that 
has killed more than 135,000 Americans is being overstated by critics to damage 
his reelection chances.

   Trump on Monday retweeted a post by Chuck Woolery, once the host of TV's 
"Love Connection," claiming that "Everyone is lying" about COVID-19. Woolery's 
tweet attacked not just the media and Democrats but the Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention and most doctors "that we are told to trust. I think 
it's all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is 
about the election."

   At the same time, the president and top White House aides are ramping up 
attacks against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert. 
Fauci has been increasingly sidelined by the White House as he sounds alarms 
about the virus, a most unwelcome message at a time when Trump is focused on 
pushing an economic rebound.

   "We haven't even begun to see the end of it yet," he said in a talk with the 
dean of Stanford's medical school Monday, calling for a "step back" in 

   Last week, Fauci contradicted Trump about the severity of the virus during a 
FiveThirtyEight podcast. While Trump contends repeatedly that he has done a 
great job against the pandemic, Fauci said, "As a country, when you compare us 
to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're 
just not."

   Trump later said Fauci had "made a lot of mistakes." He pointed to Fauci's 
early disagreement with him over the China travel ban and to the evolving 
guidance over the use of masks as scientists' understanding of the virus 
improved --- points the White House expanded on in statements to media outlets 
over the weekend.

   Asked whether the president still had confidence in Fauci, a White House 
official on Monday insisted Trump did. The official said Fauci, the director of 
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was regarded as "a 
valued voice" on the White House coronavirus task force. The official spoke on 
condition of anonymity even though the president has repeatedly railed against 
anonymous sources.

   "I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci," Trump told reporters 
Monday, calling him "a very nice person." But the president added, "I don't 
always agree with him."

   That supportive message was not echoed by Peter Navarro, a top White House 
trade adviser who has been working on the coronavirus effort.

   In an email, Navarro continued to criticize Fauci to The Associated Press on 
Monday, saying the doctor has "a good bedside manner with the public but he has 
been wrong about everything I have ever interacted with him on." That includes, 
he said, downplaying the early risk of the virus and expressing skepticism over 
the use of hydroxychloroquine, which Navarro has aggressively championed 
despite contradictory evidence on its efficacy and safety.

   Fauci, who has not appeared at recent White House task force briefings and 
has been largely absent from television, told the Financial Times last week 
that he last saw Trump in person at the White House on June 2 and hadn't 
briefed him in at least two months.

   He blamed the fact that he has refused to toe the administration's line for 
its refusal to approve many of his media requests.

   "I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the 
truth at all times and not sugar-coating things. And that may be one of the 
reasons why I haven't been on television very much lately," Fauci said.

   Trump's political foes put it more strongly.

   "The president's disgusting attempt to pass the buck by blaming the top 
infectious disease expert in the country --- whose advice he repeatedly ignored 
and Joe Biden consistently implored him to take --- is yet another horrible and 
revealing failure of leadership as the tragic death toll continues to 
needlessly grow," said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Democrat Biden's 
presidential campaign.

   Fauci's public contradictions of Trump have been viewed by the president as 
a personal affront and have caused some in the West Wing to sour on the doctor, 
officials say. Some say that, while he is critical of the president in media 
interviews, he is largely deferential behind closed doors. And they complain 
about those outside the administration, including some in the media, who have 
elevated Fauci at the expense of other officials.

   Fauci did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

   That lionizing of Fauci is anything but welcome as the White House tries to 
have its medical experts take a step back from the limelight to keep the 
election-season focus on economic recovery rather than the persistence of the 

   In the early days of the virus, as Trump bristled at the attention Fauci was 
receiving, the West Wing took control of the doctor's media schedule, 
significantly cutting into his TV appearances though he continued to find 
alternative outlets --- including podcasts and social media.

   The president's team has made clear they have no intention of trying to oust 
Fauci, knowing the uproar that would create. Instead, they appear content to 
diminish his reach while encouraging Republican lawmakers, administration 
officials and other allies to highlight some of Fauci's early missteps.

   The effort is part of a White House effort to "counterpunch" on behalf of 
Trump, who believes all slights must have a forceful response, said one 
official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to describe 
internal White House thinking.

   At the same time, supporters are flocking to Fauci's defense. The 
Association of American Medical Colleges' president and chief scientific 
officer issued a statement saying the organization was "extremely concerned and 
alarmed by efforts" to discredit Fauci.

   "We cannot allow Donald Trump to silence Dr. Fauci or any other government 
scientists," said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who introduced legislation in April 
to protect Fauci and other leaders of the National Institutes of Health from 
being fired for political reasons. "Dr. Fauci is saving lives every day."

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