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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 23, 2021 - Health

Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

Jan 23, 2021 - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Latest James Bond movie release delayed for third time

An advertisement poster featuring Daniel Craig in the new James Bond movie "No Time to Die" in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images

The release of the latest James Bond film, "No Time to Die," has been postponed for the third time as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate Hollywood.

The state of play: The film's release, initially scheduled for April 2020, was first postponed to November 2020, and then to April 2021. MGM said this week that movie's global debut will now be delayed until Oct. 8.