Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, revealed on Sunday morning that President Donald Trump hasn’t attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting in “several months,” adding that “it would be better” if he could start working with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on the public health response to the pandemic.
During an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Fauci expressed cautious optimism about the impact that incoming vaccines could have on the raging crisis, saying we could see the nation start a return to normalcy by the second quarter of next year. At the same time, he said that “it is possible” that there could be another 200,000 American deaths over the next few months.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper then turned the conversation to our current political reality, which is the Trump administration still refusing to acknowledge the outcome of the presidential election and, therefore, blocking the transition process with the incoming Biden administration.
“How problematic is it for the fight against the coronavirus if the [National Institutes of Health] and your agency and other government experts are not able to begin communicating with President-elect Biden’s team, which, as you know, has its own expertise in fighting pandemics?” Tapper wondered aloud.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases likened the smooth transition between administrations to “passing a baton in a race,” noting that “you don’t want to stop and then give it to somebody” but to “essentially keep going” forward.
“So it certainly would make things more smoothly if we could do that,” he said, adding that “it would be better if we could start working with” the Biden-Harris team immediately.
“When is the last time President Trump attended a White House Coronavirus task force meeting?” Tapper then pressed the pubic health expert.
“You know, it was months ago, but, you know, when we have our task force meeting, it’s run, as you know, by Vice President Pence and the vice president then translates that to the president,” Fauci replied. “But the last time the president was physically at a task force meeting was several months ago.”
Fauci acknowledging that the president has ignored his own task force for months now comes on the heels of a Washington Post report citing a senior administration official claiming that Trump hadn’t attended a meeting in “at least five months.”
Fauci also praised the president-elect for selecting Ron Klain as his chief of staff, lauding Klain’s work as the Obama administration’s czar in dealing with the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
“He never liked the word czar,” Fauci recollected. “He was the coordinator but he was absolutely terrific at the Ebola situation where we had a very successful, ultimate endgame with ebola. We developed therapies. We put out the outbreak — you know, it was a terrible outbreak, obviously. But we, ultimately, were very successful but that is how I got to know Ron.”