Trump Allies Demand Accountability From Fauci, Not The Former President
House Republicans were eager to cross-examine Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former chief White House medical adviser, about his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They remained silent, however, about Donald Trump, the former president who stood by the architect of the lockdown strategy.
“It is time for Dr. Fauci to confront the facts and address the numerous controversies that have arisen during and after the pandemic,” said Ohio Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who chairs the select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic that will grill the doctor behind closed doors.
Nine Republicans sit on the subcommittee. All of them love to loathe Fauci. Four of them have already endorsed Trump as he seeks the presidency a third time, including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has said publicly that the doctor “should be in jail.”
Fauci was the face of the White House COVID task force, prescribing masking and school closures and lockdown measures during the pandemic, often as Trump stood at his side. The relationship was fraught. Trump frequently contradicted the doctor he deputized, occasionally even grousing about him publicly on Twitter. But in the end, Trump still awarded Fauci a presidential commendation for his work.
The focus on the decisions Fauci made, and not on the president who empowered him, has exasperated Trump rivals like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “Are we going to have some type of accountability?” DeSantis asked during a recent interview with RealClearPolitics. “Are we going to have a reckoning for this, or are we just going to act like everyone did such a great job?”
Reps. Debbie Lesko of Arizona, John Joyce of Pennsylvania, and Ronny Jackson of Texas will also get a chance to cross-examine Fauci. Each has criticized the doctor. All of them still endorsed the former president who presided during his tenure. None returned RCP’s request for comment.
“He will, once again, put America and Americans first,” Lesko said in a statement two days after Christmas to announce her endorsement of the Republican president who oversaw Fauci as he prescribed lockdowns and mask mandates from the White House podium.
Ahead of Fauci’s testimony Monday, the Arizona Republican retweeted a post from the subcommittee calling for “serious answers” from the now-retired doctor. “It’s time,” she wrote.
At issue is whether in 2020 Trump delegated far too much authority to Fauci, who pushed hard for extensive pandemic lockdowns. “For an executive widely known for being able to fire people,” wrote Dr. Scott Atlas, who joined the White House COVID task force that summer, “it was shocking that this president allowed the incompetence of the nation’s Task Force advisors to continue.”
Trump has given different accounts for why he deferred to Fauci’s judgment. During remarks last summer, the former president insisted that he once listened to Fauci, but “whatever he said, I did the opposite.”
When conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt later asked why he never removed Fauci, Trump replied that he was “not allowed to fire him” and claimed that Fauci “wasn’t a big player in my administration.”
Pressed by Megyn Kelly on why he awarded Fauci a presidential commendation, Trump pled ignorance, saying during a September interview on Sirius XM, “I don’t know who gave him the commendation. I really don’t know who gave him the commendation. Someone probably handed him a commendation.”
Multiple former Trump officials found that answer far-fetched and said publicly that any type of commendation would require a signature from the president. Regarding the suggestion that Fauci be fired, however, several former officials told RCP that is easier said than done. They note that the other members of the COVID task force had a “resignation pact”: If one person was fired, all would resign.
Atlas was the single dissenting voice from that group. A neuro-radiologist and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, he publicly railed against lockdowns and called for a different strategy that was eventually adopted in large part in Florida.
DeSantis rose to national prominence largely because of how he handled the pandemic in that state, and the governor regularly rails against “Faucism” on the campaign trail. Nonetheless, he’s lagging behind Trump by double digits in each of the early primary states, according to the RealClearPolitics Average.
“The 21st century. The three biggest events: 9/11 and the wars that followed, the Great Recession, and then COVID,” DeSantis told RCP. The virus, he continued, “had a broader impact than the other two events combined. And yet, here we are. We’re not even discussing that.”
Polling suggests that the Republican electorate is more concerned with current issues, such as inflation, than a pandemic that began nearly four years ago. Trump’s compounding legal trouble and his vow to deliver “retribution” upon his enemies also seem to overshadow any questions of accountability concerning his handling of the pandemic.
The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment about Fauci’s testimony. A spokesman for the campaign previously told RCP, however, that anyone criticizing Trump’s handling of COVID “couldn’t manage a Little League baseball team let alone manage a global pandemic crisis caused by China.”
Tue, 01/09/2024 – 21:40