White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday denied that President Trump gave White House trade adviser Peter Navarro the green light to publish his caustic USA Today op-ed criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci.
On Tuesday night, Navarro blasted Fauci in his USA Today op-ed by arguing that the nation’s top infectious disease expert “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
Navarro’s op-ed came on the heels of an unnamed White House official sending news outlets a memo over the weekend claiming that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” The memo also listed examples of Fauci’s comments on the coronavirus earlier this year that later turned out to be inaccurate.
In an interview published in The Atlantic on Wednesday, Fauci said that the White House memo “was a major mistake” and “doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them.” Fauci added that during his meeting at the White House on Monday with Meadows, he told him that the memo “ultimately hurts the President.”
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, citing an administration official, Trump gave Navarro permission to write his USA Today op-ed bashing Fauci.
“Not only was he authorized by Trump, he was encouraged,” the official told the LA Times.
However, in a statement shared with TPM on Wednesday, Meadows denied that the President gave Navarro the clear to proceed with publishing the op-ed.
“President Trump did not approve Peter Navarro’s op-ed and the President has publicly noted that Peter should not have written this,” Meadows said in a statement. “This anonymous source is providing false information and promoting a narrative that is purposefully attempting to deceive your readers.”
When pressed by reporters on Wednesday about whether he approved Navarro’s op-ed, Trump dodged by saying “that’s Peter Navarro, but I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
Other White House officials appeared to distance themselves from Navarro’s op-ed as well on Wednesday.
Deputy White House press secretary Alyssa Farah tweeted Wednesday morning that Navarro’s op-ed “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes.”
The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone. @realDonaldTrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.
— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) July 15, 2020
On Wednesday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters during a campaign call that the White House “couldn’t be more grateful” for Fauci’s “steady counsel.”
“Dr. Tony Fauci is a valued member of the White House coronavirus task force. We just completed our latest meeting today. And we couldn’t be more grateful for his steady counsel as we continue to meet this moment with a whole of government approach, a whole of America approach,” Pence said on Wednesday when pressed on the Trump administration’s recent criticism against Fauci.