Five months into a still-raging pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 Americans, simmering tensions between President Donald Trump and the health experts who staff his government have escalated from private griping to open dispute.
The result, people at those agencies say, is a new sense of demoralization as they continue their attempts to fight a once-in-a-generation health crisis while simultaneously navigating the whims of a President who has shown little interest or understanding of their work.
That Trump does not trust nor follow the advice of experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, is hardly new. The President has not attended a meeting of his coronavirus task force in months and recently its sessions have been held outside the White House, including on Wednesday at the headquarters of the Department of Education. Fauci was told to participate in the meeting remotely by videoconference, preventing him from participating in a midday task force press briefing.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said later it’s a “decision for the task force” who appears at coronavirus briefings. Asked if the President still has confidence in Fauci, McEnany said Trump “has confidence in the conclusions of our medical experts.”
Still, the President has complained to aides in meetings for months that Fauci’s television appearances — which have been sharply curtailed by the White House — often seem to contradict his own message. As early as March, Trump was growing frustrated that Fauci’s forecasts for the virus seemed less optimistic than his own, but largely avoided public rebukes.
At the same time, many of Trump’s aides have viewed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with deep skepticism for months, believing its role in early testing missteps to have been a critical failure and viewing more recent leaks of draft guidance from the agency as attempts to circumvent the White House.
Yet as cases surge across the country and Trump’s handling of the crisis causes his reelection prospects to dim, he is taking his quarrels with Fauci and the CDC public in striking new fashion.
Read more: CNN