Then came Sunday’s campaign rally in South Florida where the frantic crowd chanted: “Fire Fauci! Fire Fauci!” prompting a striking response from the president that suggested he might just do that.
“Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” Trump told his supporters. “I appreciate the advice.”
The not-so-subtle threat has prompted questions and concerns over the plausibility of Trump firing the country’s popular health expert, and whether the president has the legal authority to do so.
Technically the president of the United States cannot directly fire Fauci, let’s say by a tweet, mainly because he is not a political appointee. As a career federal employee and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, Fauci is protected by federal civil service regulations that shield him from being fired or demoted for political reasons.
Fauci could be removed but it would imply a complicated process layered with civil service protections that requires the government agency to provide evidence that there is a just cause for dismissal, including failure to follow orders or misconduct.
The process to remove him would need to be initiated by someone in Fauci’s chain of command, such as the director of the National Institutes of Health or the Health and Human Services secretary, which is highly unlikely considering he is an esteemed figure in the scientific and medical community.
However, should that be the case, Fauci would need to be notified about what the allegation was and would then have the opportunity to respond and present evidence to the Merit Systems Protection Board that such action was not warranted. He could also appeal the board’s decision in court.
Trump’s suggestion of firing Fauci came after the expert gave grim warnings of what is possible in the upcoming months, including rising coronavirus cases that could surpass 100,000 a day.
“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Fauci told The Washington Post on Friday.
“All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”
Fauci also took aim at the government’s response and argued the only way to reverse the current surge of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, was for the nation to make an “abrupt change” in public health practices and behaviors.
In a statement to The Post, White House spokesman Judd Deere disparaged Fauci’s statements, calling them “unacceptable and breaking with all norms.”
“It’s unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force and someone who has praised President Trump’s actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics,” Deere told The Post at the time.