Attorney General William Barr attended the coronavirus task force’s briefing at the White House Monday, a briefing from which Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was notably absent. According to previous reports, President Donald Trump was “furious” at Fauci for suggesting that the economy would need to stay locked down for an extended period in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
As Reuters reported, Barr made his debut at the now-daily briefings, appearing on Monday to discuss the administration’s efforts to combat price gouging and hoarding of needed medical supplies. Earlier in the day, Trump signed an executive order meant to prevent hoarding and price gouging, and Barr said that the Department of Justice had already been investigating some potential cases of people hoarding on an “industrial scale” and then manipulating the market for profit.
“We have not waited for this order to be signed. We have received evidence recently. We have already initiated investigations of activities that are disrupting the supply chain and suggestive of hoarding,” Barr told reporters.
While it was not clear why Fauci was not at Monday’s briefing, his absence drew considerable pushback from many of Trump’s critics. Others took issue with Barr’s behavior at the briefing, noting that he was laughing at Trump’s jokes when one of the speakers talked about having a low-grade fever and the president’s statements about “angry” reporters.
Trump starts his coronavirus propaganda press conference 41 minutes late, looking more orange than he’s ever been. Not kidding. Dr. Fauci is noticeably not present. Bill Barr is present, which is probably the third worst person they could have out there, behind Pence and Trump.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) March 23, 2020
Barr smugly laughing at Trump's dumb jokes is off-the-charts. She doesn't know he's joking, so awkward. This is a Saturday Night Live skit, can't be real. #whitehousePressconference
— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) March 23, 2020
That’s ok, Barr is there and can give a summary of Fauci’s report. https://t.co/i3WNzpBkPp
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) March 23, 2020
The concern was especially high after a series of reports of friction between Trump and Fauci. As The Inquisitr reported, Trump grew “furious” at Fauci for suggesting an extended economic shutdown in order to curb the spread of the virus. Trump appeared to be growing weary at the idea of the economy being shut down, suggesting on Monday that he could call for some restrictions to be lifted sooner than medical experts have recommended.
Though Fauci is the nation’s top expert in the spread of infectious diseases, a report claimed that Trump was relying instead on leaders of the business world to determine how to best proceed.
“Trump is furious,” one Republican former West Wing official told Vanity Fair.
“He’s been calling business leaders asking if he should just reopen the economy.”
Reports of tensions between Trump and Fauci date back weeks. Back in late February, as Trump was still making public statements downplaying the severity of the outbreak and predicting that it would soon be over in the United States, The New York Times reported that the White House barred Fauci from speaking out about the spread of coronavirus without first getting approval.