Can Trump Really Fire Fauci After The Election?

President Donald Trump appears to have a secret he decided to share with a few hundred of his closest friends in Florida during one of his last campaign rallies there. To supporters who were chanting  "Fire Fauci," Trump said: "Don't tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election. I appreciate the advice" (via CNN). 

The president's comments came after pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Washington Post that "We're [the US is] in for a whole lot of hurt. It's not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly." 

The White House has also chastised Dr. Fauci for his comments, with White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere as saying "It's unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President's Coronavirus Taskforce and someone who has praised President Trump's actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics" (via CNN).

Given that the rift between Dr. Fauci and the president appears to be widening, we're sure you're wondering — as we are — whether Donald Trump actually has the power to fire Dr Fauci after the election. 

Trump cannot fire Fauci

Experts say that under federal law, the president doesn't have the power to fire Dr. Fauci and remove him from government, because the pandemic expert is a career civil servant, and protected under the Pendleton Civil Service Reform act, which was meant to professionalize the civil service. Max Stier, CEO of the non-profit Partnership for Public Service tells CNN that "The President could not fire Fauci without cause. There are civil service protections for career federal employees that prevent them from being removed or demoted for political reasons." 

"So it's worth noting that the NIH is not only an amazing science organization — best in class in the world — but it is almost entirely a career-led organization in government, and so therefore unusual in that respect. There's next to no one who is a political appointee and when you have someone, it's people like Francis Collins, who is a world-class scientist himself," Stier says.

What the President can do, is to ignore Dr Fauci. "...even if he can't fire him for any reason, he can sideline him. He doesn't have to listen to his advice, nor does he have to include him in the task force or otherwise allow him to be fundamentally in a deciding role. That is a choice the President or other senior political leaders could make," Stier says.

But with more than 9.2 million people across the country down with COVID-19 and 230,000 dead, it may not be a wise choice.