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Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Several Republican senators defended Anthony Fauci after a string of attacks in recent days from President Trump, who has called the government's top infectious-disease expert "a disaster" and claimed without evidence that he's a Democrat.

Why it matters: As polls indicate warning signs for both Trump and down-ballot Republicans, more GOP leaders are urging the president to stop downplaying the pandemic and listen to advice from public health experts. Fauci is one of the most trusted voices in the country on coronavirus issues.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate Republican whip, said to CNN about his advice for Trump: "Stay away from personal attacks. Quit attacking the media. Quit attacking Fauci and focus on issues. ... He's got to stay disciplined to do it, and I think that's how you're going to win over the middle people."
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) tweeted: "Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants. ... If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat."
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has frequently clashed with Trump, said, "Dr. Fauci is an esteemed professional with extraordinary expertise and capability, and I have full confidence in his leadership and capacity.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has remained close to Trump through his re-election bid, said, "I think in terms of Dr. Fauci, I trust his judgment."
  • Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), when asked if he agreed with Trump's comments, said, "I got a lot of confidence in Dr. Fauci."

The big picture: Several Republican senators have come out and criticized the president's actions and comments as the election nears, fearing his unpopularity could cost them the White House, Senate and House.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) gave one of the sharpest criticisms of the president of any Republican last week, calling Trump a "TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual" and saying he has "flirted with white supremacists."
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on Sunday he's disagreed with President Trump on trade agreements with China, budget deficits, COVID-19 stimulus aid, but has always brought up his concerns privately.

Go deeper: Trump attacks CNN as "dumb b*stards" for continuing to cover pandemic

Go deeper

Romney: Trump's lack of leadership on COVID-19 is "a great human tragedy"

Sen. Mitt Romney and President Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) told CNN Thursday that President Trump's lack of leadership during the coronavirus pandemic is "a great human tragedy."

Driving the news: Trump has largely stayed silent on the country's worsening pandemic in recent weeks, even as the U.S. experienced a record daily death toll and hospitalizations surpassed 100,000 for the first time. Instead, the president has focused much of his public commentary on pushing baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

Updated 23 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Highlights from Biden and Harris' first joint interview since the election

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

Trump's 2024 begins

Trump speaking to reporters in the White House on Thanksgiving. Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is likely to announce he'll run again in 2024, perhaps before this term even ends, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has already set in motion two important strategies to stay relevant and freeze out other Republican rivals.