Trump Faults Navarro Over Unauthorized Critique of Fauci
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump admonished a senior White House adviser for writing an unauthorized critique of Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who has clashed with the administration over the pandemic and plans to ease public health restrictions.
Peter Navarro “made a statement representing himself -- he shouldn’t be doing that,” Trump told reporters Wednesday, referring to an op-ed by the White House’s director for the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy published in USA Today. Navarro blasted Fauci over his comments about the coronavirus early in the U.S. outbreak.
Asked about Navarro’s op-ed, Fauci told The Atlantic: “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself. So I don’t even want to go there.”
Navarro’s statement wasn’t authorized by the White House communications office, according to Alyssa Farah, the White House’s director of strategic communications. Navarro was speaking for himself, Farah said Wednesday.
In his statement, Navarro said Fauci has regularly been wrong, saying he didn’t favor Trump’s travel ban from China, initially downplayed the risk of the virus and flip-flopped on masks. “When you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution,” Navarro wrote.
It’s the latest broadside from the administration of one of the country’s top health officials. Trump himself has chastised Fauci over his caution about opening schools, though said this week the two get along well. Dan Scavino, another senior adviser to Trump, posted an image to his Facebook campaign depicting Fauci as “Dr. Faucet,” washing the U.S. economy down the drain.
After being criticized for attacking Fauci, Trump has this week sought to downplay the friction, repeatedly saying that he has a good relationship with the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Fauci was once a ubiquitous figure in daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings with reporters, but hasn’t spoken publicly at the White House since late April. Fauci has regularly been more candid in warning of the virus’s risks, and the dangers of a hasty reopening, than Trump himself and other administration officials.
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a picture of the task force meeting, with Fauci to his right, appearing to be speaking, as he listened. Later, on a Trump campaign call with reporters, Pence praised Fauci when asked about the criticisms.
“Dr. Tony Fauci is a valued member of the White House coronavirus task force,” Pence said. “We just completed our latest meeting today and we couldn’t be more grateful for his steady counsel, as we continue to meet this moment with a whole of government approach, a whole of America approach.”
White House criticisms of Fauci have drawn pushback from Republican circles. “We don’t have a Dr. Fauci problem,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said Tuesday in South Carolina, according to The State newspaper.
“The attempted trashing of his reputation by the likes of a kook like Peter Navarro is a disgrace,” Tony Fratto, a White House aide under George W. Bush, tweeted Wednesday.
Fauci, speaking Tuesday before the op-ed was published, was asked about criticism bubbling up from the White House. “It doesn’t bother me. I have a job to do and I do it. I don’t pay attention to noise, I pay attention to substance. All of that is noise,” he replied.
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