It’s a bad sign when even the whitewash admits it’s a “close call.”
But that was the ruling last week when the United States Office of Special Counsel decided that de facto COVID czar Anthony Fauci didn’t break a law against federal employees engaging in political activity when he gave a loaded interview to The Washington Post that boosted then-candidate Joe Biden against then-President Donald Trump less than a week before the 2020 election.
And the ruling used reasoning only the Beltway could pretend to believe.
In a letter dated Jan. 3, the OSC responded to a complaint filed by the conservative nonprofit group Protect the Public’s Trust that accused Fauci of violating the Hatch Act, which is aimed at keeping electioneering out of federal government offices.
In its complaint, the group charged that the Fauci interview in the Post, published Oct. 31, 2020, “exceeded the mere exchange of opinions and in fact, participated in impermissible political activity.”
The complaint notes that in a CNBC interview on Oct. 28, only two days before he spoke to the Post, Fauci deliberately declined to answer a question posed by Shepard Smith, a former Fox News host and outspoken Trump critic.
“I’m not going to get into political statements,” Fauci told Smith, according to a transcript of the interview. “I’m going to stick with public health statements.”
In The Washington Post interview, Fauci had no such concerns about getting into politics.
While stating that Biden and his running mate, then-Sen. Kamala Harris, were taking the pandemic “seriously from a public health perspective,” he said the Trump White House was looking at it from the perspective of “the economy and reopening the country.”
Is there any honest person who wouldn’t know exactly how that comment would be taken by an electorate that had been frightened to death since the spring?
While noting his own lack of access to Trump, Fauci openly bashed Dr. Scott Atlas, a top Trump adviser and Fauci rival.
“I have real problems with that guy,” Fauci told the Post regarding Atlas. “He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”
And the position of the country under Trump’s leadership?
“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Fauci said, in the quote that became the headline of the Post story (and one Fauci probably spent a good deal of time working on beforehand).
“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.”
But those statements weren’t political enough for the Office of Special Counsel, though Erica Hamrick, the office’s chief for Hatch Act investigations, admitted it was a “close call.”
The timing of the interview, Hamrick wrote, “coincided with the upcoming winter and Dr. Fauci’s assessment of the virus’s impact leading into that season.”
The fact that it was only days before a presidential election that would likely hinge on the country’s perception of the pandemic must have been sheer coincidence. (Winter would still be “upcoming” if the interview had been published a week later, of course.)
Hamrick even conceded that it was just possible that the flamingly liberal Washington Post might have had a writer who “may have written it from a particular perspective and tried to use Dr. Fauci’s words to make a political point,” but noted that the OSC could not “impute the author’s intent to Dr. Fauci’s otherwise neutral assessment.”
It’s hard to believe that sentence was written with a straight face.
Social media users weren’t fooled.
Did Fauci Interfere In The 2020 Election? Special Counsel Says It’s A ‘Close Call’https://t.co/R5W9KZv3wo
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) January 11, 2022
A corrupt bureaucrat who we never elected that will never be held accountable for his bad decisions and he’ll never retire or be fired. till death do us part.
— manamana 🙈🙉🙊 (@mayvanrough) January 11, 2022
Any American with command of the English language knows full well that The Washington Post, by October of 2020, had been at war with the Trump White House since before Trump was inaugurated. (Remember, the Post shared a Pulitzer Prize with Trump-hating New York Times in 2018 for coverage of the “Russia collusion” scandal that turned out to be a hoax. Trump had publicly demanded the papers be stripped of the prizes.)
And any Washington swamp creature like Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, knows that better than most Americans.
It’s impossible to believe that Fauci didn’t know exactly what he was doing when he gave an interview with The Washington Post on the virtual eve of the 2020 election. And that he wouldn’t know how his supposedly “neutral” statements about the performance of the Trump White House in the coronavirus pandemic were going to be portrayed.
(As an aside, Fauci probably loved it when “in for a whole lot of hurt” made it into the WaPo headline. He might as well have been predicting the disastrous first year of the Biden administration on the country.)
And saying a key Trump adviser “doesn’t make any sense” doesn’t even have the fig leaf of neutrality.
In other words, Fauci gave an interview with one of the most influential newspapers in the country, published three days before the 2020 election, and did everything but carry a “Biden-Harris 2020” banner and chant “Trump lied/people died.”
But for the Office of Special Counsel, that’s not enough.
”Here, while a close call, Dr. Fauci’s comments, without more, do not appear to be directed at the electoral success or failure of either candidate,” Hamrick wrote (emphasis added).
“… OSC has concluded that Dr. Fauci did not use his official authority or influence as NIAID Director to affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.”
There was plenty more in the context of Fauci, the Trump White House,and the presidential election, and every American who was even casually following the news knew it.
The fact that Trump and Fauci’s increasingly strained relations in 2020 made it all but certain that Fauci would have been ousted if Trump had won a second term only add to the suspicion that Fauci had a vested interest in the election’s outcome. (More than a year after the election and Biden’s inauguration, Fauci, the federal government’s highest-paid employee, is still sitting pretty.)
Even in the “swamp”, it was a “close call.” And for a whitewash, that’s never a good sign.