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Can President Trump fire Dr. Fauci? Not really

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci wears a face mask as he waits to testify before a House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — At a campaign rally for President Donald Trump Sunday in South Florida, the crowd chanted: “Fire Fauci! Fire Fauci!”

“Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” Mr. Trump told his supporters. “I appreciate the advice. He’s a nice man, though. He’s been wrong on a lot.”

Fire Fauci? Hard to do

Because Anthony Fauci, 79, is a career civil servant, and not a political appointee, he is protected by law from political retaliation. But the president can remove him from the White House coronavirus task force.

Fauci has advised six presidents on HIV/AIDS and other domestic and global health issues.

Last month, Fauci was named Federal Employee of the Year during the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies), highlighting the work of employees making important contributions to the US government.

“Tony is without peer in the world of global health as an authoritative, experienced and candid figure,” said former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who was the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, who awarded Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, Fauci is protected by federal civil-service regulations, which shield him from termination or demotion for political reasons.

Mr. Trump could pressure Fauci’s boss, Dr. Francis Collins, or Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to fire the doctor.

Protections for civil servants

The civil-service protections require a government agency to show evidence that there is a just cause for being fired, including failure to follow orders or misconduct.

“I’ve got a better idea. Elect me and I’m going to hire Dr. Fauci! And we’re going to fire Donald Trump!” former Vice President Joe Biden said Monday during a campaign rally in Cleveland. 

Speaking at a rally Monday in Atlanta on behalf of Biden, former President Barack Obama ripped Mr. Trump’s suggestion of ousting Fauci, who is “the one person who can actually help them [Trump administration] contain” the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the few people in this administration who’s been taking this seriously all along — and what’d he say? His second-term plan is to fire that guy,” Mr. Obama said.

In an interview Friday with The Washington Post, Fauci said he hasn’t spoken with Mr. Trump since he called him from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center during his COVID-19 treatment. While there, the president tweeted this:

 

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 231,263 Americans.