Trump says Fauci is ‘terrific guy’ but not ‘team player’

National and World

“The only thing I say is he’s a little bit sometimes not a team player,” Trump said, denying that the two were “at odds”

President Donald Trump works the crowd after speaking at a campaign rally Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A day after claiming that the American people are tired of listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Donald Trump insisted Tuesday that he gets along with the nation’s top infectious disease specialist while also complaining the doctor who has clashed with him at times over the coronavirus is not a “team player.”

Trump’s strained relationship with Fauci has political overtones as the president defends his record on the coronavirus just two weeks before Election Day. Polls show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key battleground states, but Trump says he’s confident of victory.

“He’s a nice guy,” Trump said of Fauci in a telephone interview with “Fox & Friends” from the White House ahead of an evening rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

“The only thing I say is he’s a little bit sometimes not a team player,” Trump said, denying that the two were “at odds.”

Trump late Monday wound up a western swing facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign and hoping for the type of last-minute surge that gave him a come-from-behind victory four years ago. But his inconsistent message, another rise in coronavirus cases and his attacks on experts like Fauci could jeopardize his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most loyal base.

“I’m not running scared,” Trump told reporters during the trip. “I’m running angry. I’m running happy, and I’m running very content ’cause I’ve done a great job.”

Trump’s aggressive travel comes as he plays defense in states he won four years ago, though the Republican president insisted he was confident as he executed a packed schedule despite the pandemic.

Seeking to shore up the morale of his staff amid growing private concerns that he is running out of time to make up lost ground, Trump blasted his government’s own scientific experts as too negative, even as his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 people in the United States, remains a central issue to voters.

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said of the government’s top infectious disease expert. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb. But there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci’s a disaster.”

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