• Trump says everyone is on the same team regarding the pandemic, including Fauci
  • Fauci said White House efforts to undercut his credibility ultimately reflected badly on the president
  • Trade adviser Peter Navarro was chastised by Trump for writing he views Fauci's statements with "skepticism and caution"

President Trump on Wednesday attempted to downplay reports of a rift between the White House and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, saying the two have a “very good relationship” and chastising trade adviser Peter Navarro for questioning Fauci’s expertise.

“We’re all on the same team, including Dr. Fauci,” Trump told reporters. “I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci. … We want to get rid of this mess China gave us. Everybody is working on the same line.”

The comments followed by appeared to be a concerted campaign during the weekend and at the beginning of the week to undercut Fauci’s approach to the pandemic, with administration officials listing times Fauci’s assessments were wrong without tying them to the information available at the time and criticizing him for focusing on the public health aspects of the pandemic.

Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, on Wednesday punched back, saying the focus should be on the virus.

“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Fauci told the Atlantic in an interview. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”

He added: “Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that. When the staff lets out something like that and the entire scientific and press community push back on it, it ultimately hurts the president.”

Recent polls indicate most Americans trust Fauci despite right-wing attacks.

Trump also said Navarro should not have penned written in USA Today about his disagreement with Fauci.

“He made a statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that,” Trump said.

Navarro objected to Fauci’s opposition to the use of hydroxychloroquine to fight coronavirus despite a decision by the Food and Drug Administration that its dangers outweighed the benefits of its use and Fauci’s statement that reduced mortality from the virus was not the single-most important metric in determining whether the U.S. should move forward with economic reopening plans.

“The lower the mortality rate, the faster and more we can open,” Navarro argued.

“So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution.”

Fauci warned earlier this month that falling death rates represent a “false narrative” because there are “so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus.”

By midafternoon Wednesday, the U.S. had recorded more than 3.46 million coronavirus infections and nearly 137,000 deaths.