I peppered Trump about why he had enabled Anthony Fauci, who relished his role in advocating lockdowns and other authoritarian responses to the COVID pandemic. Trump defended him in part, as did so many others I spoke with in the Trump administration. But Trump conceded Fauci had faults.
“Well, who knew that he knew so little? Anthony Fauci is a good promoter—he’s a great promoter. He is a better baseball pitcher than he is predicting what to do with people’s health,” Trump said, needling him about the wild first pitch he threw at a Major League Baseball game during his 2020 publicity tour.
I asked Trump at a later interview whether he ever got suspicious about what was by that point acknowledged to be a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Trump had been excoriated by the press for suggesting COVID-19 had leaked from the lab, disagreeing with the cover story from China and the World Health Organization that it had been initially spread via a nearby wet market. A year later, many in corporate media begrudgingly acknowledged his suggestion was accurate.
Wasn’t it interesting how devastating the virus’s impact was globally compared to how it had affected China, I asked. Did he ever wonder if it was intentional?
“No, I never thought China did it on purpose. I thought it was done out of incompetence and I may be wrong because they were the biggest beneficiaries. I felt it came from the lab from day one. I think it was an accident,” he said, rejecting any grander conspiracy theory.‘I never thought China did it on purpose.’
Trump acknowledged his public health messaging about COVID had not been handled well, but he was clearly proud of what he accomplished in the big picture.
“One of the things that I’m disappointed about is that I think we did a great job with COVID,” said Trump. “With the vaccine, that’s such a game-changer and nobody else would have done that. And I did something else. I went out and bought hundreds of thousands of doses before we knew that we had a vaccine. That was a big risk.”
“Nobody’s ever treated the FDA the way I did, because this was life and death,” Trump said. “I was really almost bad to them, but I wasn’t bad because I’m trying to save lives.”
“I found them to be not incompetent but unbelievably bureaucratic,” he said, noting that in meetings Food and Drug Administration officials would talk about how many years it would take to get treatments and medications approved.
He wondered if Biden had a “senior moment” when he claimed there was no vaccine when he came into office. “He got shot, meaning jabbed, on December 21st, apparently. Now, do you think he didn’t know where he was? That was a little scary,” Trump said.
Trump also expressed concern about Pfizer, the drug company that he said “has great power, in my opinion, over the FDA.” He worried that Pfizer’s financial concerns were affecting decisions made at the FDA.
I asked him about reports that the vaccine approval had been inappropriately delayed until after the election. He seemed to agree that it may have happened, but wasn’t too concerned. “I don’t feel badly about that,” he said. “If they would have done it before election, fake news media would have made it a tiny story, so it wouldn’t have had the impact. Because it was after election, the press made it massive.” He figured that was better for everyone.