Congress can prevent this: It ought to pass a law stipulating that directors of the centers and research institutes that are part of the National Institutes of Health—officials like Fauci—should be removable only for malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity, but not for mere policy differences or politically inconvenient messaging. Similar protections exist for the heads of numerous independent agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and Social Security Administration. These protections prevent presidential politics from excessively influencing an administrator’s performance.
As it happens, the Supreme Court is supposed to decide a case this term that could make it more difficult for Congress to limit when the president may discharge executive-branch officials to cases of “good cause.” At least since the Reagan administration, opponents of independent agencies have insisted that such restrictions impinge on the executive power vested in the president by Article II of the Constitution. The current dispute focuses on the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.
Advocates of what’s known as “unitary-executive theory” insist that presidents have constitutionally guaranteed authority to fire all executive officers at will and to command them in how they make policy. Heretofore, the Supreme Court has consistently rejected that argument.