MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN/AP) – Former Vice President Joe Biden is defending Dr. Anthony Fauci, one day after President Donald Trump suggested he’d dismiss the nation’s top infectious disease expert, while taking part in a late Sunday night MAGA rally in South Florida.
During the rally at Opa-locka Executive Airport, President Trump expressed frustration that the surging coronavirus cases remain prominent in the news, sparking chants of “Fire Fauci, Fire Fauci” from his supporters.
Trump replied, “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” Trump said to the cheering crowd. “I appreciate the advice.”
Later, Trump claimed Fauci is “a nice guy but he’s been wrong a lot.”
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Trump has previously claimed Fauci opposed mask wearing earlier in the pandemic, though at the time the administration was concerned about supply levels of medical grade equipment.
Meantime, the Democratic presidential nominee tweeted Monday: “We need a president who actually listens to experts like Dr. Fauci.” At Sunday night’s rally, most of the crowd was not wearing masks and there was no social distancing.
Biden has sought to keep the presidential campaign focused on the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. As of early Monday morning, more than 9.2 million people across the US have contracted coronavirus, and more than 231,000 people have died.
In public polls, Americans have said they trust Fauci more than Trump to provide reliable information about the pandemic.
While the President recently signed an executive order that would make it easier for career federal employees to be dismissed from their jobs, it’s unclear whether the new measure would include Fauci.
Under federal law, Trump doesn’t have the power to directly fire Fauci, a career civil servant, and remove him from government. He could try ordering his political appointees to dismiss him, but it would be a time-consuming process that Fauci could appeal.
Trump has used the race’s final hours to accuse Biden of wanting to force the country back into a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
Biden is traveling to Ohio and Pennsylvania on Monday, trying to keep open multiple pathways to an Electoral College victory. Trump plans a whirlwind five rallies, from the battlegrounds of North Carolina to Wisconsin.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.)