Fauci testifying in front of Congress. Photo: Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci declined to tell the Washington Post on Friday if mail-in voting should be used as a public health measure amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying his statement would "almost certainly ... be used as a soundbite."

Why it matters: Fauci said he didn't want the media to set up another confrontation between him and President Trump, but it highlights how government medical experts have often found themselves in politically contentious situations when dealing with issues like reopening schools, mask mandates or the upcoming election.

Fauci was asked about the topic on three separate occasions by the Post's Jacqueline Alemany — all without mentioning Trump's name. His responses:

  • "I don't want to comment on mail-in voting, Jackie, because that is certainly going to be used as a soundbite to which — and I hate to do this to you. It's a sport now in Washington to pit me against the president and I don't really want to do that. But someone will take a quote and, bingo, it'll be me against the president and I don't want to do that."
  • "Well, I think that if people maintain the capability of masks, hand washing, physical distance, to the extent possible ... the risks would be small, if you did all the things that I'm saying. So we'll get — I don't want to get into that because that's going to be misconstrued."
  • "I know ... you're not going to like this, but if you know what I go through every day with, I mean, I don't even want to go —  yeah, I'm sorry."

The big picture: Trump has consistently baselessly claimed that mail-in voting is susceptible to mass fraud.

  • Voting by mail dates back to the Civil War, and 1 in 4 Americans have used it in the last three federal elections, per the Brennan Center.
  • Both parties use mail-in voter drives, and Republicans are worried that Trump's attempts to generate fear about voting by mail could depress turnout among older GOP voters — since some may not want to risk voting in person during the pandemic.

Go deeper

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 31,1833,800 — Total deaths: 962,793— Total recoveries: 21,348,410Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,833,800 — Total deaths: 199,818 — Total recoveries: 2,615,949 — Total tests: 95,841,281Map.
  3. Health: CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air.
  4. Media: Conservative blogger who spread COVID-19 misinformation worked for Fauci's agency.
  5. Politics: House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11.
  6. World: U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections — "The Wake-Up Call" warns the West about the consequences of mishandling a pandemic.
Updated Sep 20, 2020 - Health

7 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week

Data: Compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Seven states set new highs last week for coronavirus infections recorded in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project and state health departments. Wisconsin and Nebraska surpassed records set the previous week.

Why it matters: Problem spots are sticking in the Midwest, although the U.S. is moving in the right direction overall after massive infection spikes this summer.

Updated 23 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced all domestic pandemic restrictions will be lifted in New Zealand from midnight Monday except in Auckland, where they'll be eased late Wednesday.

The big picture: Ardern delayed the country's election until Oct. 17 as authorities work to stamp out a coronavirus cluster in Auckland, after the re-emergence of COVID-19. There have been single-digit or zero domestic cases in NZ's most populous city since the government reintroduced restrictions.

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