Trump did not explicitly endorse the call to remove Fauci in his Sunday tweet, but in recirculating it, he defended himself against claims he did not act quickly enough to curb the spread of the virus that has killed thousands and led to a near-shutown of the American economy.

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump generated new questions about the fate of his anti-coronavirus policy team by retweeting a post that called for firing Anthony Fauci.

Trump did not explicitly endorse the call to remove Fauci in his Sunday tweet, but in recirculating it, he defended himself against claims he did not act quickly enough to curb the spread of the virus that has killed thousands and led to a near-shutown of the American economy.

DeAnna Lorraine, a pro-Trump congressional candidate who polled less than 2 percent in a recent open primary challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., claimed in a tweet that "Fauci is now saying that had Trump listened to the medical experts earlier he could've saved more lives. Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US public at large."

She added: "Time to #FireFauci..."

Fauci is now saying that had Trump listened to the medical experts earlier he could've saved more lives.

Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US public at large.

Time to #FireFauci...

— DeAnna Lorraine 🇺🇸 (@DeAnna4Congress) April 12, 2020

In an interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Fauci was more equivocal when asked if the U.S. had gotten a "late start" on anti-virus actions like social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

Saying "it isn't as simple as that," Fauci noted that people would have resisted restrictions had they been imposed earlier, and said it has been hard to contain the virus in a busy and diverse country like the United States.

Asked if lives could have been saved had measures been imposed during the third week of February instead of mid-March, Fauci said: "It's very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say, that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that."

Fauci added, however, that "what goes into those kinds of decisions is – is complicated. But you're right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then."

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In retweeting the criticism of those comments, Trump did not cite Fauci at all. He instead focused on his decision to shut down flights in early February from China, where the coronavirus originated.

"Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up," the president wrote.

Trump and Fauci, the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have disputed each other during the course of the epidemic.

Their disagreements have included the amount of time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine and the usefulness of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that Trump has championed as a treatment of coronavirus but which Fauci has questioned.

During a recent White House briefing, Trump prevented Fauci from answering a reporter's question on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine.

“He’s answered that question 15 times,” Trump said.

Critics of the president said Fauci has been indispensable and expressed concern for his future with the administration. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe likened Fauci to former Russia special counsel Robert Mueller.

"Are you old enough to remember when even GOP Senators said that firing Mueller would end Trump’s presidency?" Tribe tweeted. "Well, firing Fauci would be way deadlier. Only this time we can’t even threaten mass street protests!"

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