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Fauci given security detail after receiving threats

Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge US COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's MORE, one of the most visible figures on the White House coronavirus task force, has been given a security detail after receiving threats, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill.

Fauci did not directly answer when asked by The Hill at Wednesday's press briefing if he'd been given additional protection, deferring the question to the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.

A second person familiar with the situation said the additional security was under discussion last month and was likely implemented in recent days.

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A spokeswoman for the HHS inspector general confirmed that agents are providing protection for Secretary Alex Azar, who is in the line of presidential succession, and other HHS officials, but would not specify whether that included Fauci.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE interjected at the briefing to note that "everybody loves" Fauci and that he was a formidable basketball player in his younger days.

"He doesn't need security. Everybody loves him," Trump said. "Besides that, they'd be in big trouble if they ever attacked him."

During an appearance on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning, Fauci called the threats and his safety "secondary" to the ongoing pandemic.

"I've chosen this life. I know what it is," Fauci said. "There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing, but you just focus on the job you have to do and just put all that other stuff aside and just try as best as possible not to pay attention to it.”

Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has expanded his public profile significantly as one of the faces of the Trump administration's coronavirus response. He has appeared regularly at daily briefings, made numerous television appearances, and done interviews with NBA player Stephen Curry and Barstool Sports in an effort to reach a wide audience.

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He has gained a reputation as a truth-teller for his blunt talk and willingness to correct Trump. He has offered clarity on vaccine timelines and potential treatments where the president has at times been overly optimistic.

But that style has led to intense criticism and backlash among corners of the conservative internet and some of Trump's supporters. Fauci went viral last month when he put his hand over his face when the president referred to the State Department as the "deep State Department."

Right-wing outlets have posited that Fauci may be trying to undermine the president. Conservative provocateurs such as Bill Mitchell and Tom Fitton have been among those tweeting criticism of Fauci.

Trump downplayed any rift between him and Fauci after the doctor missed a few consecutive press briefings last month. He has praised Fauci as "extraordinary" and said the two get along "very well."

Updated on April 2 at 9:13 a.m.