Will President Trump #FireFauci? He said Monday he has no plans to, but Edward Markey wants to make sure.
The Massachusetts senator is filing legislation that would prevent the president from removing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert — and other heads of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — over policy or political differences.
The National Institutes of Health Director Protection Act would allow directors to be removed “only for malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity — not for having differing views on policy or expressing positions that are politically inconvenient,” according to a press release Tuesday.
Markey’s move comes after Fauci and Trump appeared to smooth over the latest chapter in their sometimes fraught relationship during a press conference Monday.
The latest clash began when Fauci, the head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that had the United States “started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives” in the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci also said there was “pushback about shutting things down” earlier on in the public health crisis.
Tensions boiled over when Trump later retweeted a tweet criticizing the longtime director that said it was “Time to #FireFauci” — sparking outcry.
By Monday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley was out with a statement saying, “This media chatter is ridiculous — President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci.”
Trump later doubled down, saying he was not firing Fauci even as he admitted he was aware of the hashtag in the tweet.
“I like him, I think he’s terrific,” Trump said of Fauci. “This was a person’s view. Not everybody’s happy with Anthony. Not everybody’s happy with everybody.”
The current law, Markey says, allows the president to fire directors of national research institutes and centers under the National Institutes of Health for any reason. But heads of other agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration, are protected, he said.
“Dr. Fauci has become the most trusted voice of the science community in responding to this pandemic. He is not afraid to speak truth to power,” said Senator Markey. “But Donald Trump has an allergy to both — science and the truth. Our response to the coronavirus crisis must be based on science, on data, and on the truth. We cannot allow Donald Trump to silence Dr. Fauci or any other government scientists.”
Even Fauci was walking back his Sunday comments, saying during the Monday evening coroanvirus briefing that they were a “poor choice of words” in a response to a hypothetical question, and that the president “went with the health recommendations” as they were made.
When asked if he was pushed by Trump to clarify his remarks, Fauci said, “Everything I do is voluntary. Please, don’t even imply that.”
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