'Not firing Fauci', says Trump
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'Not firing Fauci', says Trump

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At a contentious briefing with reporters, Trump lashed out at media coverage that has focused on gaps in the U.S. government's response after initial warnings about the pandemic disease which has now spread throughout the United States.

The president asserted he had the ultimate authority to re-open the largely shuttered economy despite an earlier deference to U.S. state governors and constitutional questions about whether that decision-making fell within his purview.

"The president of the United States calls the shots. If we weren't here for the states, you'd have had a problem in this country like you've never seen before," Trump said. "When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's got to be. ... It's total. The governors know that."

Trump, who said a plan to open businesses again would be completed shortly, interrupted his daily briefing to play a campaign-style video that highlighted his actions to tackle the virus and included clips of Democratic and Republican governors praising his efforts.

The president also invited Fauci to the stage in the opening minutes of the briefing to make clear that Trump had followed his recommendations on putting mitigation efforts into place across the country.

Trump, who played down the seriousness of the virus in its initial stages, has chafed at media coverage suggesting he did not do enough to prevent its spread.

On Sunday, he retweeted a call to fire Fauci after the top U.S. expert on infectious diseases said lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

At the briefing on Monday, Fauci said he was answering a hypothetical question in the television interview and made clear that Trump had listened to him when he recommended mitigation efforts.

Trump said he and Fauci had been on the same page "from the beginning" and declared he liked the respected doctor. "I think he's a wonderful guy," Trump said, while adding that not everyone was happy with the health expert.

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