President Trump suggested at a rally early Monday morning that he could fire Dr Anthony S. Fauci after polling day, further escalating tension between his administration and the nation’s top infectious disease expert as the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States hit record highs.
Mr. Trump spoke well past midnight at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport in Florida on his fifth and final rally of the day. At one point, he began to recite a familiar complaint about the continued media coverage of the virus.
His growls led the crowd of his supporters to start chanting, “Fire Fauci! Fire Fauci! Mr. Trump listened in silence for a few moments before remarking, “Don’t tell anyone, but let me wait a bit after the election.” I appreciate the advice.
This claim is strongly disputed by Dr Fauci, who told the Washington Post in an interview published on Saturday that the United States “could not be worse off” as winter approaches. A White House spokesperson later called Dr Fauci’s comments “unacceptable.”
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, has repeatedly said that if he wins the presidency, he hopes Dr Fauci will stay in his role and serve in his administration.
Mr Trump’s joke about Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was part of an hour-long mix of petty jokes, misstatements, hyperbole, self – congratulations and occasional arguments on the election scenario.
Mr. Trump has adopted Florida as his homeland, and it is a transitional state he desperately needs to win to pave the way for another four-year term. Though he narrowly triumphed in 2016, polls including one released by the New York Times and Siena College on Sunday showed him behind Mr Biden in a close race.
About 8.7 million Floridians had already voted on Sunday, according to the US Elections Project, nearly two-thirds of all registered voters in the state. But at least since Sunday night, turnout from black and Hispanic voters, two key groups for Democrats, has lagged in Miami-Dade County, the state’s most populous county.
A sign of the importance of South Florida to the Biden campaign, Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate, visited the area on Saturday, and former President Barack Obama is expected to campaign there for Mr. Biden Monday.
“We’re winning Florida,” Trump said at the rally, “we’re winning everything.”