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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

President Trump retweeted a tweet on Sunday night that concluded "Time to #FireFauci," which could unleash some conservatives' simmering suspicions about Dr. Anthony Fauci.

What they're saying: The White House pushed back on media speculation that Trump may fire Fauci on Monday afternoon, calling it "ridiculous."

“This media chatter is ridiculous – President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci. The President’s tweet clearly exposed media attempts to maliciously push a falsehood about his China decision in an attempt to rewrite history. It was Democrats and the media who ignored Coronavirus choosing to focus on impeachment instead, and when they finally did comment on the virus it was to attack President Trump for taking the bold decisive action to save American lives by cutting off travel from China and from Europe. Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump.”
— White House spokesman Hogan Gidley

The state of play: Fauci, who has advised six presidents and held high government office back to 1984, is heralded on the cover of the forthcoming issue of The New Yorker as "THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN AMERICA" — and rising celebrity is always dangerous for a Trump adviser.

  • Fauci also seemed to fuel criticism of the president yesterday when CNN's Jake Tapper asked about a weekend New York Times story documenting warnings about the virus that Trump had downplayed.
  • "[O]bviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives," Fauci replied. "Obviously, no one is going to deny that. ... But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then."
  • The Drudge Report bannered the exchange: "FAUCI DOWNLOADS ON TRUMP."

Why it matters: Trump has embarked on what he has repeatedly called the biggest decision of his life — when to urge governors to begin rolling back shutdown guidance, allowing businesses to reopen.

Administration sources tell Axios they haven’t had the sense that Trump was ready to fire Fauci — at least that was the case before the tweet.

  • But there is enormous pent-up energy among some of Trump’s allies in conservative media to launch a full-blown campaign to pressure the president to remove Fauci.

The most prominent conservative media figures — especially Fox News opinion stars — have so far mostly treated Fauci with kid gloves.

  • And some administration officials have been shielding him from what would have been worse attacks from allies on the outside.
  • These allies — who Trump has been reading and chatting with on the phone — blame Fauci for talking Trump into the shutdown, and for basing advice on faulty modeling.

The bottom line: Trump’s tweet may be the green light some prominent conservatives have been seeking to unload on Fauci.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

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