Perhaps recognizing that his administration’s efforts to discredit Anthony Fauci have failed, President Donald Trump engaged in a phone conversation with the infectious disease expert on Wednesday, the first time the two have spoken with one another since June 2.
The drama between the two figures hit its apex earlier this week after the White House leaked a memo to media detailing a plan from the administration showcasing how they planned to discredit the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The memo itself, however, was riddled with dubious claims of Fauci being wrong during the pandemic, and omitted the context behind some statements he had made that the White House claimed demonstrated he had provided inaccurate assessments about coronavirus early on.
In an interview with The Atlantic published this week, Fauci expressed confusion over why Trump and his advisers were trying to disparage him.
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“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Fauci said. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
On Thursday it was announced that Fauci and Trump had patched things up, at least enough to have a direct conversation with one another. The two spoke on the phone on Wednesday, and according to individuals familiar with the content of the call, it went well, with Trump recognizing that he and Fauci were on the same team, according to reporting from CNN.
Yet the call itself may demonstrate just how out-of-touch Trump is when it comes to utilizing experts he has at his disposal. Fauci, who is a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and considered one of the top experts in his field, hadn’t briefed Trump in several months prior to their conversation earlier this week.
Additionally, Trump also did not signal, after the call, that he was considering taking more cautious steps when it came to dealing with COVID-19, continuing instead to insist that businesses and schools across the country reopen, with less stringent requirements for doing so than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended. Indeed, Trump himself has taken a confrontational tone toward doctors in general and the CDC specifically, sharing a tweet on Monday that said the agency was “lying” about the pandemic.
Trump has also suggested that testing should be slowed down as a means to stop showing that cases are going up, a move that runs counter to what most health experts say should happen.
“If we did half the testing we would have half the cases,” Trump said in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.
In private meetings at the White House, Trump has complained that he’s no longer seen as a trusted voice on how to deal with coronavirus. Indeed, between Trump and Fauci, more Americans appear to trust what the latter has to say on COVID-19, with 65 percent saying they trust Fauci versus 26 percent saying they don’t, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Conversely, just 30 percent of Americans say they trust Trump’s words on the pandemic, while more than two-thirds (67 percent) say they don’t trust him.