Basking in cheers at a MAGA rally, President Trump threatened to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the NIAID, after the 2020 election — but he doesn’t have the power to do that.

President Donald Trump has stopped being subtle and has now openly threatened to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci after the 2020 presidential election. During a Florida rally, Trump supporters began shouting “Fire Fauci” as the president spoke about the continuous media coverage of COVID-19. Trump smirked. “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” he said to cheers. “I appreciate the advice. He’s been wrong a lot.”

The good news: Dr. Fauci, the country’s foremost expert in infectious diseases, cannot be fired by President Trump. Fauci is the head of the NIAID, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health. Only NIH director Francis Collins could fire Fauci, and Collins told CNN in June that he wouldn’t. Trump would have to pull off his own version of the Saturday Night Massacre to move enough people out of the way to get to Fauci.

That will never stop Trump from saying that he’ll do it. The rally, where very few people showed up in protective face masks, was held one day after the White House slammed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head. Responding to Fauci’s criticism in The Washington Post of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere accused the doctor of “playing politics” before the election.

Donald Trump Anthony Fauci
Donald Trump listens in as Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about COVID-19 during a briefing at the White House, 4/22/20 (AP)

“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,” Deere said. Deere seemingly took umbrage with Fauci praising Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden, for “taking [COVID-19] seriously from a public health perspective.”

Biden has pledged during his campaign to “listen to the scientists” when it comes to the pandemic.  As of November 2,  9.2 million people across the United States have contracted COVID-19; more than 230,000 people have died with coronavirus. Since Trump began openly undermining Fauci and replaced him on the Taskforce with Dr. Scott Atlas, Fauci has hired an armed security detail — something he’s never had to do while working under the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

The backlash to Trump’s comments at the Florida rally was swift. “DISGUSTING — Trump fuels his MAGA rally to chant ‘Fire Fauci!’… What sick grotesque country do we live under?” epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding tweeted. “I’ve never felt the urge to go to DC and protest until now. Dr Fauci has been such a source of sanity for doctors and nurses though the Trump covid chaos. I feel physically sick now,” one concerned citizen tweeted. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted, “Hey Trump just promised to fire Fauci. That seems important, insane, unsurprising, newsworthy, scary, and bad politics.”