Peter Navarro, President Trump’s top trade adviser, ripped Dr. Anthony Fauci in an op-ed published Tuesday in USA Today. On Wednesday, the White House issued a mild rebuke of Navarro.
Navarro wrote in the op-ed that Fauci “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” He claimed that Fauci argued against banning travel from China, among other things, and criticized him for “flip-flopping on the use of masks.”
“So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution,” Navarro wrote at the end of the op-ed.
On Wednesday, the White House signaled its disapproval of Navarro’s op-ed. “The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone,” White House director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah tweeted. Trump “values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.” Another White House official told Fox News that Navarro is “going rogue.”
It would be easier to believe the rebuke of Navarro if he was the only person in the White House working to undermine Fauci. But he’s not. The White House recently began sending members of the media opposition research on the infectious disease expert, and last week Trump told Sean Hannity that Fauci is “a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.” Fauci has also reportedly been sidelined within the White House, where he’s no longer giving Trump briefings.
On Monday, Trump’s social media guru Dan Scavino shared a political cartoon mocking Fauci on Facebook.
Despite all this, the White House denies that the relationship between Fauci and Trump is souring. “To the notion that there’s opposition research and that there’s Fauci versus the president, it couldn’t be further from the truth,” Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters Monday. “Dr. Fauci and the president have always had a very good working relationship.” Of course, in this administration, a “good relationship” doesn’t mean your job is safe.