Trump threatened to fire CDC's chief of respiratory diseases in February: report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE nearly fired a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official after she said in February that the agency was preparing for a pandemic, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on Feb. 25. 

According to the Journal, Trump was angry with Messonnier after her statement resulted in a dip in the stock market. The same day, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the virus was “contained” in the U.S. 

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The next day Trump repeatedly said he did not think an outbreak was “inevitable” and appointed Vice President Pence as the head of the administration’s coronavirus task force.

Democrats have speculated that Trump was unhappy with Messonnier, who has not appeared at White House briefings since February. Ron Klain, a former aide for former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response Biden tells CNN town hall that he has benefited from white privilege MORE who served as former President Obama’s Ebola czar in 2014, said Messonnier faced "immediate blowback" for sounding the alarm about the coronavirus. 

“Starting the next day, Dr. Messonnier no longer appeared at public briefings of the White House coronavirus task force. The president and the White House sent a clear message to scientists in the government — there would be a price for speaking out and speaking up," Klain said in a campaign video for Biden.

In recent weeks Trump has also been speculated to be unhappy with Anthony FauciAnthony FauciControversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report Overnight Health Care: Ex-Pence aide backs Biden over virus response | Trump's sharp words put CDC director on hot seat | Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers MORE, the nation's leading infectious disease expert who frequently appears at White House briefings. Like other public health officials, Fauci's messaging often counters the administration's narrative. 

The president made headlines on April 12 when he retweeted a post by former GOP congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine, who blasted Fauci for suggesting that restrictive federal measures, if implemented earlier in the U.S., could have saved more lives amid the coronavirus outbreak, using the hashtag #FireFauci.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would limit Trump's ability to fire the public health expert.