By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Monday took swipes at health experts in his government leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, as his relationship further frayed with top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci.

The Republican president, seeking re-election in November, has been increasingly critical of government health officials and their guidance as a steady rise in infections threatens the easing of shutdown restrictions across the country.

In the early morning, Trump retweeted to his 83 million followers the accusations of a former game show host that “everyone is lying,” including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust,” Chuck Woolery wrote Sunday night without citing evidence.

Last week, Trump said he thought CDC guidelines for schools reopening were too tough, impractical and expensive.

Trump then retweeted an April post from Woolery’s podcast co-host that Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wants to require “an ID card to go shopping.” As the spread of the coronavirus accelerated months ago, Fauci said it was possible the United States could in the future issue a certification of immunity.

The White House said on Monday that Fauci has played a valuable role in developing therapeutics and a vaccine for the disease, and he continues to serve on the coronavirus task force headed by Vice President Mike Pence.

The White House did not respond to questions on whether the president believed the CDC was lying.

TENSIONS FLARETensions with Fauci have risen with the decline of Trump’s popularity in the polls over the president’s handling of the outbreak. Fauci’s plain-spoken assessments during White House coronavirus briefings have made him a household name.

Trump told the Fox News Channel on Thursday that “Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.” Fauci said in a Financial Times interview the following day he has not briefed Trump in two months.

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The White House over the weekend distributed a list of statements Fauci made early in the pandemic that turned out to be wrong as understanding of the disease developed, according to media reports. But the White House said that it only sent responses to dozens of questions it had received from the Washington Post.

Trump trails his presumptive Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Joe Biden, in both national and battleground state polls.

Infections are rising rapidly in Arizona, California and Texas and about 35 other states.

Florida recorded more than 12,600 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its second-highest daily total since the outbreak began, coinciding with the state’s attempt to revive tourism and attract visitors to the reopened Disney World.

Health officials and the CDC have pleaded with the public to wear masks to limit the spread of the virus, but the issue has become a politically divisive issue in the United States unlike in many other countries which have seen far lower rates of infection and death.

Trump wore a mask for the first time in public when he visited a Washington D.C.-area military medical center on Saturday. He had previously refused to wear a mask in public or ask Americans to wear face coverings, saying it was a personal choice.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Howard Goller)



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