WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci formally met with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team for the first time on Thursday to discuss the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci told NBC News he participated in a “very productive Zoom meeting,” which lasted for an hour, with Biden’s team. Fauci said they discussed “a variety of Covid-related topics.” A senior transition official said Jeff Zients, who’s expected to be the incoming administration’s Covid-19 czar, led the discussion for the Biden team.
Biden later told CNN in an interview on Thursday that he asked Fauci to stay in his current role, and to also serve as a chief medical adviser. Fauci had told NBC News on Thursday he would stay in his current role and work closely with the new administration.
Biden told CNN that he’d be “happy” to get publicly vaccinated conditional on Fauci saying that it is safe. He also said that when inaugurated he will ask Americans to wear a mask for 100 days.
“It is important that we in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks but beyond that, where the federal government has authority I’m gonna issue a standing order that in federal buildings you have to be masked,” he said.
He added, “Just 100 days to mask. Not forever. 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction … if that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably.”
In an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” ahead of the virtual meeting, Fauci said he has talked informally with members of Biden’s team, including Zients, to coordinate the response to the pandemic. He said during the interview that he would be “talking about just substantive, uncomplicated transition issues like vaccines and the state of the epidemic” with the incoming administration.
Fauci said he has spoken previously with Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, but the meeting Thursday with the transition “landing team,” which is working on priorities for the early months of the Biden presidency, marked a more formal and substantive process.
Fauci added that it will likely be the first of a series of transition meetings with him. He also said he fully expects to remain in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as the new administration takes over.
“What contribution I will make in the new administration depends on the new administration,” Fauci said. “But I cannot imagine I’m not going to be involved in the Covid-19 response. I mean that would, I think, be unheard of if that’s the case. But we’ll see.”
The White House task force response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, also started her formal contact with the Biden transition team this week.
Meanwhile, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are also receiving the presidential daily briefing and meeting with transition team advisers Thursday. There are no public events on their schedule.
They are also expected to record a joint interview Thursday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, portions of which are scheduled to air after 4 p.m. ET, with the full interview airing at 9 p.m.
- Biden on Thursday announced that Brian Deese, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, will serve as director of the National Economic Council. Deese, a former deputy director of the council and the Office of Management and Budget, was part of the Obama administration team that worked on both environmental issues and the bailout of the auto industry.
- Biden could announce his health team as soon as next week, a transition official told NBC News, including his picks to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the incoming administration’s response to the pandemic. Former Obama Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is a leading contender for HHS secretary, as is Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.
- Obama and former Georgia House minority leader and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams will headline a get-out-the-vote virtual rally Friday for the state’s Democratic Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. The event will include a discussion with volunteers ahead of the state’s Dec. 7 voter registration deadline and the start of in-person early voting on Dec. 14.
- Harris announced more senior staff appointments Thursday, including her chief of staff, Hartina Flournoy, who has served as former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. Rohini Kosoglu will serve as a domestic policy adviser and has been with Harris since her days in the Senate, serving as her chief of staff. Nancy McEldowney, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service, will serve as Harris’ national security adviser.
- President Donald Trump has not ruled out the possibility of firing Attorney General William Barr, according to an administration official and two people familiar with the matter who also said a sudden departure is not seen as imminent. Trump publicly lashed at Barr during a White House event on Thursday, telling reporters, “He hasn’t done anything.”
- The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an emergency lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign, which sought to invalidate mail ballots it claimed were improperly included during the canvas in Milwaukee and Dane counties.
- White House communications director Alyssa Farah announced she is leaving the job.
Trump had no public events on his schedule. He presented the Medal of Freedom to former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz on Thursday and was also expected to sign legislation that aims to modernize information technology at the federal level and an executive order promoting the use of artificial intelligence in government.
Dartunorro Clark contributed.