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Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

During a campaign call on Monday, President Trump slammed infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, calling him a "disaster" and claiming that "people are tired of COVID," according to multiple reporters who listened to the call.

Why it matters: Fauci, who considers himself apolitical, is one of the most trusted voices in the country on the coronavirus. Trump's escalating attacks on the government's top infectious-disease expert come as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are again surging across the country, just two weeks out from Election Day.

Driving the news: CBS's "60 Minutes" aired an interview Sunday night with the NIAID director, where he said he was "absolutely not" surprised Trump contracted COVID-19 after seeing him on TV in a crowded place with "almost nobody wearing a mask."

What he's saying: "Every time he goes on television there's always a bomb, but there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy's a disaster," Trump said on a campaign call.

  • "People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies," Trump said. "People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots ... Fauci is a nice guy. He's been here for 500 years."
  • "If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths," before later saying it would be 700,000 or 800,000. "If there's a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn't care less," Trump added.

The president later tweeted: "Dr. Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said “no masks & let China in”. Also, Bad arm!"

  • In a second tweet, Trump appeared to mock Fauci for a ceremonial first pitch he threw out for the Washington Nationals earlier this year.

The big picture: The White House has repeatedly blocked Fauci from making television appearances or doing interviews, which the top health expert pointed out during his "60 minutes" appearance. "There has been a restriction… but, it isn't consistent," Fauci said.

  • Fauci has also clashed with the president over a political ad put out by the Trump campaign, saying a clip of him appearing to praise Trump's coronavirus response was used out of context and without his permission.
  • Fauci has insisted there's "not a chance" that he would resign even if the Trump campaign continued to feature him in ads, but argued: "By doing this against my will, they are in effect harassing me."

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.
Dec 1, 2020 - Health

Expert: Pandemic has disrupted 80% of The Global Fund’s AIDS and HIV programs

Axios founder Mike Allen (left) and Gayle E. Smith, president and CEO, ONE Campaign. Photo: Axios

80% of The Global Fund's AIDS and HIV programs around the world have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, ONE Campaign president and CEO Gayle E. Smith said on Tuesday at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: The pandemic has diverted resources and attention from efforts to care for patients with AIDS and HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, as well as restricted medication delivery to regions that are the most affected, per The New York Times.

Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveils $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.