President Donald Trump’s failure to contain the coronavirus outbreak and his refusal to promote clear public-health guidelines have left many senior Republicans despairing that he will ever play a constructive role in addressing the crisis, with some concluding they must work around Trump and ignore or even contradict his pronouncements.
In recent days, some of the most prominent figures in the GOP outside the White House have broken with Trump over issues like the value of wearing a mask in public and heeding the advice of health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom the president and other hard-right figures within the administration have subjected to caustic personal criticism.
They appear to be spurred by several overlapping forces, including deteriorating conditions in their own states, Trump’s seeming indifference to the problem and the approach of a presidential election in which Trump is badly lagging his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, in the polls.
Once-reticent Republican governors are now issuing orders on mask-wearing and business restrictions that run counter to Trump’s demands. Some of those governors have been holding late-night phone calls among themselves to trade ideas and grievances; they have sought out partners in the administration other than the president, including Vice President Mike Pence, who, despite echoing Trump in public, is seen by governors as far more attentive to the continuing disaster.
“The president got bored with it,” David Carney, an adviser to the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, a Republican, said of the pandemic. He noted that Abbott directs his requests to Pence, with whom he speaks two to three times a week.
A handful of Republican lawmakers in the Senate have privately pressed the administration to bring back health briefings led by figures like Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, who regularly updated the public during the spring until Trump upstaged them with his own briefing-room monologues. And in his home state of Kentucky last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, broke with Trump on nearly every major issue related to the virus.
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