White House lets trade adviser publicly attack Fauci after insisting there was no effort to undermine him

Politics

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 18: Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro speaks to members of the press outside the West Wing of the White House June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. Navarro spoke on former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book “The Room Where It Happened.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro openly attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci in an op-ed on Tuesday, after the White House repeatedly insisted there has been no effort to undermine the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.

Navarro’s USA Today op-ed did not go through the normal sign-off process of being edited and approved by the White House press office, a White House official told CNN.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” Navarro writes in the op-ed.

“So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution.”

Before the op-ed was published Tuesday evening, the White House appeared to be recalibrating its approach to Fauci, who sat for a lengthy meeting with chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday, after White House officials questioned his record in a statement to reporters.

Speaking during a midday briefing Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said officials simply “provided a direct answer to what was a direct question” when they issued the list of Fauci’s statements.

“There’s no opposition research being dumped to reporters,” she said, insisting later that Trump and Fauci have “always had a very good working relationship.”

While his piece was not edited and approved by the press office, the White House has not yet pushed back strongly against the piece in any on the record comments.

However, director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah said on Twitter Wednesday morning that the op-ed only represents Navarro’s opinion.

“The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone. @realDonaldTrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration,” she wrote.

Navarro did not immediately respond when asked by CNN to respond to the suggestion he went rogue.

Still, Trump’s irritation with Fauci has, at times, been encouraged by Navarro who has repeatedly blamed Fauci for doubting the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.

Navarro once told Fauci he would be personally responsible if it was later shown that hydroxychloroquine worked to treat coronavirus, despite multiple studies questioning its use.

Fauci — who is expected to attend Wednesday’s coronavirus task force meeting, according to a senior administration official — appeared to acknowledge how that tension has led to mixed messaging while speaking at a Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service event earlier Tuesday

“I believe, for the most part, you can trust respected medical authorities. I believe I’m one of them, so I think you can trust me, but I would stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth,” Fauci said. “Who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data.”

He added, “It’s entirely understandable how the public can get mixed messages and then get a bit confused about what they should do.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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