Graham: 'We don't have a Dr. Fauci problem'

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRon Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes Democrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick MORE (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that any effort by the White House to undermine the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTo preserve our democratic freedoms, let's cultivate service-minded, thoughtful citizens Russia says coronavirus vaccine will be ready for doctors in two weeks Fauci: 'I seriously doubt' Russia's coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective MORE, would be unproductive as coronavirus cases surge across the country. 

“Has he been right all the time? No. We don’t have a Dr. Fauci problem. We need to be focusing on doing things that get us where we need to go. So I have all the respect in the world for Dr. Fauci. I think any effort to undermine him is not going to be productive, quite frankly,” Graham told reporters Tuesday when asked about reports of the White House trying to discredit the infectious disease expert.

The senator also called Fauci one of the “smartest people” he knows. 

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Graham said the federal government should be working on a phase four response to the pandemic that focuses on unemployment benefits, testing capacity and aid to hospitals. 

“That’s what I’d be focused on,” Graham said. “Getting in a contest with Dr. Fauci about whether he was right or wrong doesn’t move the ball forward because here’s where we are as a nation. The infection rate is going up. We shut the whole country down. It's time to reopen up smartly. It's time to go back to school. And we’re going to deal with the reality that we’re not as prepared as we need to be, but we are moving in the right direction.” 

Graham was speaking to reporters in South Carolina after meeting with hospital officials. 

He urged the public to follow recommendations from experts to wear face masks and maintain physical distancing in an effort to take the burden off of front-line workers as cases continue to increase. 

Tensions between the White House and Fauci have recently escalated. Multiple outlets reported about a memo, first obtained by The Washington Post, that reportedly sought to undermine Fauci, citing comments he made about the pandemic that he later contradicted as the outbreak unfolded.

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Other officials have openly attacked Fauci over his public health advice during the pandemic. 

Dan Scavino, deputy chief of staff for communications, shared a cartoon on his Facebook page on Sunday that depicted Fauci as a faucet flushing the U.S. economy down the drain with overzealous health guidance to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing czar, told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he respects Fauci but that Fauci is not “100 percent right.” 

“And he also doesn't necessarily, and he admits that, have the whole national interest in mind,” Giroir said. “He looks at it from a very narrow public health point of view.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE also said last week in an interview with Fox News’s Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityQAnon supporter in Georgia heads into tight GOP runoff Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans MORE that Fauci “has made a lot of mistakes.” 

On Monday, Trump downplayed the existence of a rift with Fauci, telling reporters he has a “very good relationship” with the doctor. 

"I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci. I’ve had for a long time, right from the beginning," Trump told reporters at a White House event meant to highlight positive actions by police. "I find him to be a very nice person. I don’t always agree with him."