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Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas

Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas
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Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE is escalating his criticism of Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: CDC urges 'universal' indoor mask use when not at home | Pelosi bullish on COVID-19 relief | Trump largely silent on coronavirus as health officials sound the alarm Fauci warns US has not hit 'Thanksgiving peak' even as cases soar The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Fauci to serve as Biden's chief medical adviser MORE, just two weeks out from Election Day. Senate Democrats want more COVID-19 testing at the Capitol, and a government watchdog said it will investigate political interference at the CDC and FDA.

We'll start with Trump's attacks:

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Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level, calling him a “disaster” on a campaign call

President Trump is attacking his top infectious disease expert just two weeks ahead of the election. 

“People are tired of COVID. Yup, there’s going to be spikes, there’s going to be no spikes, there’s going to be vaccines. With or without vaccines, people are tired of COVID,” Trump said on the private call, according to audio obtained by The Hill. “I have the biggest rallies I have ever had and we have COVID. People are saying whatever, just leave us alone. They’re tired of it.”

Trump then accused Fauci of providing inconsistent advice about the coronavirus pandemic and claimed baselessly that if he had followed all of Fauci’s advice the United States would have “700,000 to 800,000 deaths right now.”

“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.

The paradox: The Trump campaign is still running an ad that implies Fauci has endorsed Trump, despite Fauci's calling for it to be taken down. 

Backstory: Trump has repeatedly lashed out at public health experts within his administration, including Fauci, usually when they disagree with his rosy falsehoods about the state of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed approximately 220,000 Americans and bludgeoned the U.S. economy. In this case, Trump's attack comes 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 BarrettGraham reports 'record-breaking' 9M haul during 2020 campaign The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Supreme Court sees new requests for religious COVID-19 carve-outs MORE as his Supreme Court nominee. 

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Big picture: Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE happily embraced being on the side of Fauci, tweeting “...yes” in reply to Trump saying “He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci.”

Read more here

GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci amid Trump criticism

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell chokes up saying goodbye to 'friend' Lamar Alexander in floor speech Mark Kelly sworn in to Senate seat Longtime GOP lawmaker urges Senate to restore itself in farewell speech MORE (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, defended Anthony Fauci on Monday after President Trump 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.

Context: The comments from Alexander, who is retiring, are likely to be the closest Senate Republicans come to castigating President Trump for attacking public health experts. Alexander did not mention Trump by name or reference any specific event.

Read more here.

Meanwhile, concern is growing inside the White House coronavirus task force about Trump's reliance on Scott Atlas, a radiologist and fellow at a conservative think tank whose influence over White House policy is worrying the experts like Fauci and Deborah BirxDeborah BirxAtlas departure from White House cheered by public health officials Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread MORE, who have been essentially pushed aside.  

Birx confronted Pence about Atlas

There’s also some drama among other members of the White House coronavirus task force. 

White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx recently confronted Vice President Pence about the increasing influence of Scott Atlas over the administration’s handling of the pandemic, a person familiar with the exchange confirmed to The Hill.

Birx raised concerns about the information Atlas was giving President Trump and suggested he be removed from the White House coronavirus task force. 

The exchange was first reported by The Washington Post, which said Pence asked Birx and Atlas to work out the strife on their own and to present data to their colleagues supporting their viewpoints. 

Recent stances from Atlas:

  • He praised the herd immunity strategy outlined in a document called the "Great Barrington Declaration," which calls for allowing the virus to spread among lower-risk, younger people to build up immunity while having “focused protection” on older, high-risk people.
  • Twitter removed a tweet from Atlas that questioned the effectiveness of masks, which are embraced by leading experts as a way to slow the spread of the virus. "Masks work? NO," Atlas’s tweet began. 
  • As Democrats push to expand testing in talks over a coronavirus response package in Congress, Atlas is also pushing back on the idea, saying testing should be focused on the vulnerable only. “When you start seeking out and testing asymptomatic people, you are destroying the workforce,” Atlas told The New York Times. 

Read more here.

Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA

An independent government watchdog will investigate the Trump administration's alleged political interference with public health agencies, Democratic senators announced Monday.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it had accepted a request from Democratic Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCan Biden find a third way between Trumpism and Obama-era globalism? Left seeks to influence Biden picks while signaling unity Schwarzenegger says he would 'absolutely' help Biden administration MORE (Mass.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot National reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition MORE (Wash.) and Gary PetersGary PetersLawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk MORE (Mich.) to review whether the scientific integrity and communications policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been violated, and "whether those policies are being implemented as intended to assure scientific integrity throughout the agency."

The senators requested the investigation earlier this month, following numerous reports of political meddling in the COVID-19 response at both CDC and FDA. 

GAO said the investigation is expected to take about three months.

Read more here.

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Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing

Senate Democrats are calling on congressional leadership to implement a comprehensive plan for coronavirus testing at the Capitol after a recent outbreak that included several lawmakers. 

Two dozen senators, spearheaded by Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Lawmakers release compromise defense bill in defiance of Trump veto threat | Senate voting next week on blocking UAE arms sale | Report faults lack of training, 'chronic fatigue' in military plane crashes Senate to vote next week on blocking Trump's UAE arms sale Overnight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire MORE (D-Conn.), sent a letter on Monday to Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks GOP senators back Christian school's push for COVID-19 carve-out Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package MORE (D-Calif.) saying that the environment within the Capitol "has created vulnerabilities" for those in the building every day.

"With 123 positive cases amongst Legislative Branch employees or contractors, it is critical that everyone has access to and the assurance of strong testing protocols to prevent the unidentified spread that has occurred in several instances over the past few months. Failing to provide this testing puts everybody within the Capitol complex at risk,” the senators wrote. 

The senators said that testing "is now being offered to some Senate staff for the first time," but warned that "these actions do not go far enough."

Read more here.

What we’re reading

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Trump aide Meadows unsure Senate GOP will approve a $1.8 trillion coronavirus stimulus (NBC News)

The 'darkest' time of the pandemic will be the holidays, expert warns (CNN)

STAT-Harris Poll: The share of Americans interested in getting Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible is dropping (Stat

State by state

Surprising results in initial virus testing in N.Y.C. schools (New York Times)

California will review any FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine before distributing it (San Francisco Chronicle)

State’s tentative vaccine distribution plan prioritizes medical workers, high-risk people (Boston Globe)

Op-eds in The Hill

Leading with optimism: the paradox of the pandemic

We can't ignore COVID-19's impact on youth mental health