Trump says he's on the same page with Fauci, doesn't fire him

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said Monday that he liked the prominent health expert and had no intention of firing him after Fauci said in an interview that previous mitigation efforts against the outbreak could have saved more lives.

In a sometimes controversial talk with journalists, Trump said that he and Fauci had been on the same page from the start about the virus and played a video for journalists defending his administration's response.

Trump, who played down the severity of the virus in its early stages, was upset by media coverage, suggesting he didn't do enough to prevent its spread.

On Sunday, Trump retweeted a call to fire Fauci after the top U.S. expert. USA In infectious diseases he said that lives could have been saved if the country had been closed earlier during the new coronavirus outbreak.

In Monday's briefing, Fauci said he was answering a hypothetical question in the interview, making it clear that Trump had overheard him when he recommended mitigation efforts that included strict measures of social distancing.

I think he is a wonderful guy, Trump said of Fauci, adding that not everyone was happy with him.

The Republican president in the past has repeated critical tweets from officials or enemies rather than criticizing himself. The retweet fueled speculation that Trump was running out of patience with the popular scientist and could fire him, prompting a White House denial ahead of Trump's briefing.

The White House spokesman said Trump's retweet addressed what he considered a false report of his travel restriction in China, where the new coronavirus originated.

Fauci has assumed national prominence, and a certain degree of affection, as a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.

He has contradicted or corrected Trump on scientific matters during the public health crisis, including whether the antimalarial drug is effective against the virus.

Fauci, director of Infectious Diseases, was asked on CNN about a New York Times report documenting early warnings issued to the White House about the new coronavirus. The scientist acknowledged that closing the country earlier could have saved lives, but warned that there were several factors involved.

Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better advantage, but I don't think we can say that we are where we are now because of a factor, Fauci said. It's very complicated.

Already targeted by the far right for his contradictions with Trump, Fauci drew more shame after the interview.

Trump also denounced the Times story in tweets on Sunday, calling it false.

Last week, during the White House daily coronavirus briefing, Trump stepped in and prevented Fauci from answering a question about hydroxychloroquine.

He won't fire Fauci today, tweeted Joe Lockhart, press secretary for former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. That is not his style. You need to humiliate him first.

Fauci, 79, has headed the federal infectious disease agency since 1984 under Republican and Democratic presidents. Republican George W. Bush honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.

Some surveys during the public health crisis have shown that Americans trust him more than Trump.