'Trump is furious': New report finds the president is on a 'collision course' with his top coronavirus expert
President Donald Trump appears to be on a "collision course" over the best way to manage the coronavirus crisis with one of his top medical experts, according to a new report from Vanity Fair.
Some of the evidence for the potential clash has been seen in public. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly been forced to correct Trump's false claims and lies about the pandemic. He has at times appeared distressed when the president is speaking. While Trump has been complimentary of Fauci — widely seen in the media as the most trustworthy spokesperson on the crisis in the administration — the president has clearly tried to push a much more optimistic tone about the course of the pandemic than the doctor believes is warranted.
Over the weekend, the signs of the break between them worsened. In an interview with Science Magazine, Fauci was frank about the communications challenges he faced under Trump, saying: "When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times — and then, it happens." Then, on Fox News, host Steve Hilton attacked the administration's policy of social distancing and Fauci himself as a "TV mouthpiece" and a member of the "ruling class." And Trump seemed to latch on to that perspective, tweeting later in the night after the segment aired words that echoed Hilton's remarks:
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION A… https://t.co/StEiK3KSZK— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1584935420
Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair reported on what this may mean:
Sources say that Trump is leaning toward telling at least some Americans to return to work after the 15-day social-distancing period ends on March 31. This puts Trump on a potential collision course with Fauci that many fear will end with Fauci being fired or quitting. “Fauci is the best medical expert we have. We can’t lose him,” a former White House official said.
He also noted:
According to sources, Trump is increasingly frustrated with Fauci and governors who advocated for shutting down large swathes of the economy to stop COVID-19’s out-of-control spread. According to four Republicans briefed on internal West Wing conversations, Trump is fuming privately that Fauci advised him that the only way to blunt the pandemic was to bring the economy to a halt. “Trump is furious,” a former West Wing official said.
One topic on which Trump has split from Fauci is a speculative treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Trump has latched on to a fringe idea that anti-malaria drugs may be a successful treatment for the virus. But as the New York Times reported, Fauci had to emphasize that, despite the president's enthusiastic touting of the drugs, there's no solid scientific support for it as a treatment at this point:
But the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, delicately — yet forcefully — pushed back from the same stage, explaining that there was only anecdotal evidence that the drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, may be effective.
“The president feels optimistic about something, has feelings about it,” said Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emphasizing that he was a scientist. “I am saying it may be effective.”
The Times also reported that some doctors are outraged about Trump's public advocacy for the treatment because it has led to a run on the drug, potentially depriving people who need it for approved purposes.