US President Donald Trump last night said he believes his top coronavirus expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, is "a wonderful guy" - but warned that not everyone thought the same.
His remarks came after Dr Fauci suggested the president had ignored his recommendation for a US shutdown in February, fuelling speculation that the president planned to fire him.
However, at a sometimes contentious briefing with reporters last night, Mr Trump said he and Dr Fauci had been on the same page "from the beginning" about the virus and played a video for reporters defending his administration's response.
Mr Trump, who played down the seriousness of the virus in its initial stages, has chafed at media coverage suggesting he did not do enough to prevent its spread.
At the briefing, Dr Fauci said he was answering a hypothetical question when he made his comment and clarified that Mr Trump had listened to him when he recommended mitigation efforts that included strict social distancing.
"I think he's a wonderful guy," Mr Trump said of Dr Fauci - while adding that not everyone was happy with him.
Over the weekend, Mr Trump had retweeted a Twitter user who called for Dr Fauci to be fired.
The White House later denied Mr Trump intended to fire Mr Fauci.
"This media chatter is ridiculous - President Trump is not firing Dr Fauci," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said.
Mr Trump's handling of the crisis has come under increasing scrutiny after it was revealed that administration and health officials were sounding alarms for weeks before the president took decisive action in mid-March.
Last night, President Trump claimed that the authority to decide how and when the economy will reopen rests with him.
But governors from both parties were quick to push back, noting they have the primary constitutional responsibility for ensuring public safety in their states and would decide when it's safe to begin a return to normal operations.
Democratic leaders in the Northeast and along the West Coast announced agreements to coordinate their efforts to scale back stay-at-home orders or reopen businesses on their own timetables, even as Trump tried to say it's his call.
"When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total," Mr Trump said at the White House coronavirus briefing. "The governors know that."
But he offered no specifics about the source of his authority or his plan to reopen the economy.