Chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that his recently announced decision to step down from his government positions was not at all affected by threats of investigations from congressional Republicans.
Fauci on Monday announced that he would be stepping down from his positions as both President Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in December of this year.
Several GOP lawmakers have vowed to launch investigations into Fauci over his actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic if they win back control of Congress in the midterm elections.
CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked Fauci Tuesday how much those threats of investigations played a role in his decision to end his decades-long tenure in government.
“None at all, Kaitlan. Really none at all, not even a slight amount,” Fauci said. “I have nothing to hide and I could defend everything I’ve done. So that doesn’t faze me or bother me. My decisions of stepping down go back well over a year.”
Fauci further said that he had originally considered stepping down at the end of the Trump administration, but stayed on at the request of Biden.
“I thought that was going to last about a year, that we would be having COVID behind us after a year. But obviously, painfully so, that’s not the case,” he said.
The longtime government official added that he felt it was the right time to leave his positions “since I’m still healthy, energetic and passionate about what I want to do. And I think that’s the time to move on to the next phase.”
Fauci’s announcement did not deter lawmakers from planning potential future inquiries, with several Republican leaders vowing to still pursue investigations into the top infectious diseases expert even when he is no longer working for the government.
Collins asked Fauci if he would agree to sit for hearings and appear before Congress after he steps down if Republicans were to make such a request.
Fauci said he would “certainly” consider the request.
“But you’ve got to remember, I believe oversight is a very important part of government structure and I welcome it and can be productive. But what has happened up to now is more of a character assassination than it is oversight,” he said.
“So sure, I’d be happy to cooperate so long as we make it something that is a dignified oversight, which it should be, and not just bringing up ridiculous things and attacking my character. That’s not oversight.”
—Updated at 1:08 p.m.