White House medical advisor Dr. Tony Fauci said he lost his influence over former President Donald Trump when he decided to focus on re-election.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph published on Friday, Fauci opened up further on the dysfunction inside the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, has stayed in post to help President Joe Biden after Trump left office.
In the interview, Fauci said he had some influence on Trump initially, but lost it after Trump decided to “essentially act like there was no outbreak”.
Peter Staley, a political activist and a person close to Fauci, told the Telegraph that the turning point came around late April or early May 2020, when Trump started siding with anti-lockdown protesters,
In April, Trump tweeted to “Liberate” Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia, while large gatherings were taking place to protest stay-at-home orders and social distancing put in place by the state governors.
Fauci agreed with Staley’s assessment, saying: “my influence with [the president] diminished when he decided to essentially act like there was no outbreak and focus on re-election and opening the economy… That’s when he said, ‘It’s going to go away, it’s magical, don’t worry about it.’ “
After this, “my direct influence on him was negligible. It became more conflictual than productive”, Fauci said. He described his presence, and frank assessment of US failures, as being like “the skunk at the picnic.”
The Telegraph reported that White house officials pressed Fauci to stop contradicting Trump. Fauci was at times barred from giving television interviews, from participating in White House briefings, and from testifying before Congress.
Trump denigrated Fauci repeatedly. He was caught saying to staff that “people are tired of hearing Fauci and all those idiots” and calling him a disaster, CNN said, reporting on a leaked phone call in October.
The White House started seeking advice elsewhere, notably from Dr. Deborah Birx, who reportedly told the White House in April that the coronavirus would soon be gone, The New York Times reported in July last year.
Birx stayed in favor longer than Fauci, but was sidelined by the end of the summer.
Since Trump has stepped down from office, Fauci has been giving many interviews about working with him, and has been vocal about how relieved he has been that he is no longer working under Trump.
Working for the Trump administration was “somewhat awkward” he told the Harvard Business Review on January 19. He later said it was “liberating” to be working with Biden instead, citing his greater respect for science.
Speaking to Axios on Monday, he called the Trump White House a “sort of superspreader location”.
Birx has also shared accounts of working with the president, saying that there were people who “definitely believed it was a hoax” and that the president was fed “parallel data” that she hadn’t approved.