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Trump offers praise for absent Fauci: 'He's a good man'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE on Monday praised National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, even as he acknowledged he may overrule the advice of public health officials and scale back steps taken to constrain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Fauci, a member of Trump's coronavirus task force, has become a familiar presence at the daily White House briefings, often offering a more sober contrast to Trump. 

Last week, after Trump touted the advantages of an anti-malaria drug, Fauci said that, as of now, it could not be used for COVID-19. 

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But Fauci was not present Monday when Trump repeated many of those claims about the benefits of chloroquine, even touting an unspecified news report about a man getting better after taking the drug.

A day earlier, Science Magazine had published a striking interview in which Fauci essentially admitted some of Trump's comments on the coronavirus pandemic were not true.  

"He's a good man. I like Dr. Fauci a lot," Trump told reporters when asked why Fauci was not at Monday's briefing. "He'll be back up soon."

Trump on Monday said he was considering loosening restrictions on social distancing and other measures aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Trump repeatedly said the damage to the economy from those measures might be worse than the impact of the virus itself.  

Trump said he would consider the advice of Fauci and other public health experts before making a decision, even as he acknowledged he may disagree with their views.

"If it was up to the doctors, they might say shut down the entire world,” Trump said. 

Trump implied some disagreements when asked if Fauci was on board with his assessment that the economy needs to be reopened sooner rather than later.

"He doesn't not agree," Trump said. "He understands there's a tremendous cost to our country both in terms of lives and in terms of economics. ... He fully understands that."