President Trump appeared to suggest during a late-night campaign rally in Florida that he may fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, after the election. Mr. Trump made the comments as the U.S. is grappling with its most alarming outbreak of the coronavirus since the spring.
Speaking at a big campaign rally in Opa-locka, Florida, Mr. Trump voiced frustration that the pandemic which has killed more than 231,000 Americans continues to dominate the news, which prompted chants of "Fire Fauci" from the crowd.
Mr. Trump responded to his supporters, "Don't tell anybody, but let me wait till a little bit after the election."
"I appreciate the advice," he added. "I appreciate that. No, he's been wrong on a lot—he's a nice man, though he's been wrong on a lot."
However, under federal law, Mr. Trump can't actually "fire" Fauci, who is a career civil servant. CBS News White House correspondent Ben Tracy reports that the president cannot remove Fauci from his post as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases because he has "no legal authority" to do so.
However, the president could put pressure on political appointees to remove Fauci from his job and Mr. Trump could remove Fauci from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, according to Tracy.
Mr. Trump's remarks came as Fauci gave a stark warning over the weekend about the pandemic and what Americans are facing heading into the winter months.
"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 told the Washington Post.
Fauci also offered an assessment of how both Joe Biden and Mr. Trump are approaching the coronavirus crisis. Fauci said Biden "is taking it seriously from a public health perspective," while Mr. Trump is "looking at it from a different perspective," one focused on "the economy and reopening the country."
His comments drew the ire of the White House, which accused Fauci of helping Biden's candidacy.
"It's unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President's Coronavirus Taskforce and someone who has praised President Trump's actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics," White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a lengthy statement.
Additional reporting by Melissa Qunn and Arden Farhi.