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Fauci: Trump's call to 'liberate' Virginia, Michigan 'hit me like a punch to the chest'

Top infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci says school should be open 'full blast' five days a week in the fall Watch live: White House holds briefing with COVID-19 response team The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Colonial pays hackers as service is restored MORE said in an interview that aired Sunday that former President TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE’s call to “liberate” Virginia and Michigan "hit me like a punch to the chest.”

Fauci described his reaction to the former president’s tweets and comments starting in mid-April that called for the reopening of state governments during coronavirus lockdowns for a CNN special report. 

“The thing that hit me like a punch to the chest was then all of a sudden he got up and said ‘Liberate Virginia,' 'Liberate Michigan,’ ” Fauci said of Trump. “And I said to myself, ‘Oh my goodness. What is going on here?’ ”

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“It shocked me because it was such a jolt to what we were trying to do,” Fauci told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta. 

Former White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah BirxDeborah BirxTulane adds Hunter Biden as guest speaker on media polarization The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Supreme Court announces unanimous rulings The Memo: The mystery of post-presidency Trump MORE also told Gupta that Trump told her at the time the U.S. “will never shut the country down again.” 

“The one policy directive he gave to me in April, which was the last time I really had any briefing with him in that kind of way, was we will never shut the country down again.”

Throughout the year, Trump spoke out more in support of reopening the country’s economy, arguing that the U.S. could not function under lockdown for longer. 

Most states reopened at least some of their businesses by the end of May.