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Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump plans to make Anthony Fauci a top target at upcoming rallies, using increased attention to the Wuhan lab-leak theory as a weapon against an official long viewed as more trustworthy.

Why it matters: Trump and conservative media have made Fauci an improbable face of the opposition, trying to give him the cartoon-villain status once accorded to former Sen. Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or — in Trump’s case — Hillary Clinton.

Trump amped up his longtime Fauci rants yesterday in a statement calling for COVID reparations from China:

  • "The correspondence between Dr. Fauci and China speaks too loudly for anyone to ignore. China should pay Ten Trillion Dollars to America, and the World, for the death and destruction they have caused!"

What we’re hearing: Look for Trump to light into Fauci tomorrow during dinner remarks to North Carolina annual Republican convention, in Greenville — Trump’s second big speech, after CPAC, since leaving office.

  • Jason Miller, Trump’s senior adviser, told Axios the base has a "visceral" reaction to Fauci: "People see Anthony Fauci and they think of shuttered businesses, lost school."
Screenshot: Fox News

The big picture: Fox News' prime-time stars are amping up their Fauci rants based on new questions about COVID’s origins.

  • “[A]ll the smirking morons in the American news media changed their view completely overnight,” Tucker Carlson said last night, 24 hours after saying Fauci should be criminally investigated.
  • "LORD FAUCI EXPOSED," said one Tucker graphic. Another dubbed him "Lord Fauci, Patron Saint Of Wuhan."
  • Sean Hannity jumped the gun last night with a graphic calling new revelations "the FALL of FAUCI."

Reality check: The theory most experts still believe to be most likely is that the virus was transmitted from a bat to some other species of animal, then to humans. That’s what happened with plenty of other viruses.

  • But it hasn’t been proven. A cadre of experts — and now the Biden administration — are calling for a more thorough investigation into the possibility that the virus infected workers studying it at a Wuhan lab, who then infected others.

Fauci himself told the Financial Times (subscription) that China should release the medical records of nine people whose illnesses could provide vital clues into whether COVID resulted from a lab leak.

  • "I have always felt that the overwhelming likelihood — given the experience we have had with SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV, bird flu, the swine flu pandemic of 2009 — was that the virus jumped species," Fauci said. "But we need to keep on investigating until a possibility is proven."

Fauci dismissed the idea that the NIH might bear any responsibility for the pandemic, telling the FT: "Are you really saying that we are implicated because we gave a multibillion-dollar institution $120,000 a year for bat surveillance?"

What's next: Trump plans a pair of rallies just before July 4. Look for Trump to try to make Fauci a punching bag.

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Go deeper

Trump and Planned Parenthood converge at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

Former President Donald Trump speaking at a Marshalltown rally in January, 2016. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Trump and Planned Parenthood have one thing in common: They're both sharing the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Oct. 9.

What's happening: Trump is holding a rally at 7pm, just an hour after a fall book sale to benefit the group that the former president's administration took aim at while in office.

  • While there's a gap between the two events, there's expected to be overlap as Trump supporters make their way to the fairgrounds early.
Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
3 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.