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GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci amid Trump criticism

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump tells GSA that Biden transition can begin Democrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump Trump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end MORE (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, defended Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight health care: AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is up to 90 percent effective It's time for COVID-19 disaster relief ... for mothers Fauci: US could see 'well over 300,000' COVID-19 deaths MORE on Monday after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE lashed out at the nation's top infectious disease expert.

“Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants. ... If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, and it would be safer to go back to school and back to work and out to eat," Alexander said in a statement.

The public pushback from Alexander, who is retiring at the end of the year, comes after Trump blasted Fauci as a "disaster" on a campaign call earlier Monday.

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“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots — these people, these people that have gotten it wrong. Fauci is a nice guy, he’s been here for 500 years, he called every one of them wrong,” Trump told campaign staffers during the call, audio of which was obtained by The Hill

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at public health experts within his administration, including Fauci, amid the coronavirus pandemic that has killed approximately 220,000 Americans, bludgeoned the U.S. economy and dramatically reshaped the 2020 election.

But his latest remarks come after Fauci told CBS's "60 Minutes" that he was not surprised Trump contracted the coronavirus after a White House event formally announcing Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettTrump's remaking of the judicial system Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Alito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open MORE as his Supreme Court nominee.

“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci told "60 Minutes."

A number of individuals at the event, including Trump, subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus.