Referring to Fauci and other health officials as “idiots,” Trump declared that the country is ready to weather the health disaster, even as cases spike again and medical experts have warned that the worst is yet to come.
Basically claiming that if Fauci were responsible more than half a million people had died in the United States, Trump portrayed the recommendations his administration made to mitigate the spread of the disease as an exhausting nuisance.
“People are tired of Covid. We have the biggest gatherings I’ve ever had, and we have Covid,” Trump said, in a phone call to campaign staff from the hotel that bears his name in Las Vegas, where he spent two nights amid a Western campaign. “People say anything. Just leave us alone. They are tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
“Fauci is a nice guy,” Trump said. “It’s been here for 500 years.”
A Trump adviser later questioned the wisdom of attacking Fauci just two weeks before the election. The chancellor described the president’s comments as “not smart” because they focus on the coronavirus pandemic, the one topic campaign officials want to avoid the most.
Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Around the same time Trump was furious over the phone, Fauci was awarded the first presidential citation from the National Academy of Medicine for exemplary leadership during a virtual ceremony. Fauci said he was “speechless” while receiving the recognition.
“We have so many challenges ahead of us, and I can’t help but think that we’re really going through a time that disturbingly clashes with science in certain sectors of our society,” Fauci said during the virtual event.
Trump has publicly criticized Fauci because his campaign is currently airing a television ad featuring the doctor indicating that Fauci has endorsed Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
Fauci opposed the ad, saying its words were taken out of context, and asked the campaign to remove them. But the announcement is widely seen as an admission by the president’s campaign staff that Fauci is credible with voters who have rejected Trump’s response.
As he navigated the election battlefields, Trump was looking for a closing message that resonated with voters spoiled by the virus and warned them against his reaction. Attempts by his advisers to persuade Trump to adopt a more serious tone on the pandemic have stalled. At a rally in Nevada on Sunday, Trump tried to attack Biden by saying that his rival would “listen to the scientists” if elected president.
By contrast, Trump has stopped attending the meetings of the Coronavirus Task Force, whose impact has diminished dramatically. Instead, the president relied on the advice of Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist whose views on mask wearing and other mitigation practices contradict nearly all scientific opinions.
This dynamic has caused tensions among government health officials, including with Fauci, whose warnings about the virus have alarmed Trump for months.
“Fuchsia is a disaster. If I listen to him, we will have 500,000 deaths,” he said on the election call on Monday, before saying later that the number would be 700,000 or 800,000.
Trump said, “If there’s a reporter who works, you can get it the way I said it, I don’t care much.” The CNN was granted access to the call by the source.
Trump’s attempt to support his campaign staff 15 days before Election Day came amid widespread concerns among Republicans that his inability to fine-tune the final message will have dire effects not only on his own race but for control of the US Senate.
Even when his anger was evident on the call, Trump sought to show optimism.
Regarding his chances for re-election, Trump said, “This is the best song I have participated in in any campaign.” “Today is the best day I’ve felt in either campaign.”
“We are going to win. I wouldn’t have said that three weeks ago,” he said.
After stories about finger-pointing emerged early in his election campaign before a potential loss, Trump has insisted that he is satisfied with the work being done by his team – including his chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has been blamed internally for mismanaging Trump’s diagnosis of the COVID-19 virus. And what followed. Hospital treatment.
“I love Mark Meadows. It took him two years to get him out of Congress. Mark Meadows is doing a good job. I’m not firing him.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.
This story has been updated with additional reports.