New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has rebuked President Trump’s claims that he has blanket authority to order a reopening of the country and cease stay-at-home orders, saying Monday night that the last time he checked the US had ‘a constitution…not a king’.
In a heated press conference inside the White House on Monday evening, Trump claimed that his office holds ‘absolute power’ over the shutdowns prompted by the novel coronavirus outbreak – hours after Cuomo and eight other governors unveiled a pact to work together to co-ordinate the reopenings of their respective states.
‘When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,’ Trump told reporters in response to the announcement, declining to specify where his authority to overrule states resides when pressed by DailyMail.com. Instead, he reiterated: ‘The federal government has absolute power.’
But Trump’s claims of total authority were quickly refuted by Cuomo, who slammed president for what he perceived to be an ‘abrogation of the Constitution’.
‘Mr. Trump offered no legal or constitutional basis to back up his claim to exclusive authority to reopen society,’ Cuomo told MSNBC. ‘Why he [Trump] would even go there, I have no idea.
‘The constitution says we don’t have a king. To say I have total authority over the country because I’m the president, it’s absolute, that is a king. We didn’t have a king, we didn’t have king George Washington, we had President George Washington.’
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has rebuked President Trump’s claims that he has blanket authority to order a reopening of the country and cease stay-at-home orders, saying Monday night that last time he checked the US had ‘a constitution…not a king’
Cuomo then pointed out that it was in fact state governors who imposed a variety of stay-home orders under their state constitutions in response to the outbreak of Covid-19, not the federal government.
Questioning the logic behind Trump’s sudden assertion that he’ll have the final say on any reopenings, Cuomo continued: ‘Why [Trump] would want to say that after he initially did the “closing down of the government” – he never did the close down. He wants to say the travel ban with China was a close down, it wasn’t — it was a travel ban with China.
‘The close down was left to the governors to do individually state by state. Now the reopen should be total authority? That makes no sense.’
Cuomo issued the president a parting shot, warning him that if he takes any measures that could potentially endanger the lives of New Yorkers – such as enforcing premature reopenings – then Cuomo will seek legal action.
Later, the Governor phoned into CNN to double-down on his admonishment of Trump, and what he conceived to be a blatant example of the President disregarding the 10th amendment.
‘I don’t agree with the President’s analysis…we don’t have a king – we have an elected president,’ the New York governor reaffirmed. ‘That’s what our founding fathers said when they wrote the constitution. And the Constitution says the powers not specifically listed for the federal government are reserved for the states.’
Earlier Monday, six governors from states on east coast and three on the west coast announced their own pact to come up with a framework on how and when to reopen.
All nine governors Democrats and include Gavin Newsom of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York – both of whom have seen their ratings soar during their handling of the crisis.
Pointedly, the governors on both coasts said that ‘public health’ was their leading priority.
But they put themselves on a collision course with Trump, who hyped his proclamation that he would decide on Twitter, after saying for days it would soon become time to ‘reopen’ the U.S. economy.
The president’s emphatic statement came as it was revealed his task force on the vital matter will include cabinet members, his daughter, and his son-in-law.
‘A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!’
The task force is expected to include Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared, who has taken a key coronavirus response role, fielding calls from hot-spots seeking protective gear and trying to line up deliveries.
‘A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!’ President Trump tweeted about the decision to reopen the country
Both Ivanka Trump and Kushner have appeared with the president at separate White House coronavirus events – Kushner at a White House briefing and Ivanka Trump at a small business meeting in the Roosevelt Room.
The team will be headed by Trump’s new chief of staff Mark Meadows, who previously headed the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Fox News reported.
Also serving with be Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao – who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Other cabinet members to serve include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, White House advisers Larry Kudlow, Peter Navarro – who penned memos warning of the impact of the coronavirus, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, along with other officials.
Trump attacked the media and added confusion to how the decision to reopen would ultimately be made with a pair of tweets Monday.
‘For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government,’ Trump wrote.
‘Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect…It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!’ he wrote.
It is state governors who issued the stay-at-home orders that took effect across the country.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence issued ‘guidelines’ but the administration and health officials have provided considerable discussion and feedback to state officials.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner have advised him during the coronavirus pandemic
Trump has previously noted on shut-down orders that it is governors who have imposed them, and he deferred to a group of GOP governors, many in rural states, who held back from issuing stay-home orders during as the coronavirus spread.
But on Monday his sudden volte-face to taking control himself threatened to become a source of confusion and possible constitutional clash.
In Albany, New York, Cuomo convened a virtual press conference with five governors of what he called the ‘Covid corridor’ – the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island which are joined by the I-95 freeway and Amtrak’s Acela corridor and form New York City’s vast economic hinterland.
Massachusetts and Maryland, which both also sit along the I-95 but are not yet part of the council, have Republican governors – although both men have contradicted Trump’s position and said reopening is a matter for them.
The six Democratic governors revealed they were creating the first multi-state database in order to share information about the virus and help come up with reopening plan that would happen ‘within weeks’.
A health official, economic official and the governor’s chief of staff from each state will work on the plan.
The governors gushed over one another and Cuomo’s leadership both of New York and of the country throughout the pandemic.
Cuomo, when asked about the president’s remarks, challenged him to produce a plan and said wryly that it was ‘interesting’ that the federal government shrugged the responsibility of shutting down the economy at the start of the crisis but wanted to be the authority to reopen it.
‘He left it to the states to close down and that was a state by state decision, without any guidance really. He took the position that it was a state’s decision and that the states were responsible for purchasing supplies.
‘That was the model of management for this disaster emergency.
‘If they want to change the model, they can change the model. He’s the President of the United States. He’s the federal government.
‘Let him change the model. But change the model and explain it,’ he said.
THE CORONAVIRUS COUNCILS
Cuomo’s ‘covid corridor’
Newson’s west coast pact
He went on to challenge Trump by listing all of the things he would have to consider and come up with answers for if he wanted to implement a reopening plan for all 50 states.
‘Are you going to say when each state will open and should open? Are you going to set a formula that says when this jurisdiction has this infection rate it can reopen? This is what can be on public transit, this is what can be on the roads.
‘Anyone that is on the roads has to follow these precautions..
‘Testing. States don’t have the capacity to test. It is not as simple as saying, “states should.” They can’t without the federal government.
‘You want to change the management model? You can do it as president. But what’s the model? Let’s learn from the past. This was not smooth sailing, let’s be honest,’ he said.
Later, when asked about whether he found Trump’s remarks frustrating, Cuomo said: ‘It’s not about an emotion.
‘I just want clarity. It is an interesting construct that it wasn’t the fed responsibility to close the economy but it is to open the economy,’ he said.
Gina Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island, said: ‘Throughout the crisis, the governors are the ones who have been showing great leadership and taking action.
‘I think it’s only appropriate that we take leadership now.’
Governor John Carney of Delaware said thanked Cuomo for his leadership ‘on a day to day basis under very difficult circumstances across the country’.
Cuomo was joined on a televised conference call by the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island where they revealed they were creating the first multi-state database in order to share information about the virus and help come up with reopening plan that would happen ‘within weeks’.
Dialing in for the launch: The governors of all six states took part in the briefing, with Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania representing the largest economies in the group
While deaths continue to rise in New York, the new death toll across the state is 10,056 – it is rising at a slower rate. On Sunday, there were 671 new deaths as opposed to more than 700, which was the figure over the last few days.
The number of new cases across the state rose by another 6,129 to 195,031.
There were 18,825 new hospitalizations on April 12 which was an increase of more than 100 from the previous day but when taken as a three-day average, shows the curve flattening.
‘I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart and we can start on the path to normalcy and we can have a plan when you start to see some businesses reopening understanding the balance.
‘We have to understand on the reopening, as much as we have this emotion that we want it to happen and that we can’t take this anymore, it is a delicate balance,’ Cuomo said.
On the West Coast, governors Newsom, Jay Inslee of Washington and Kate Brown of Oregon unveiled their own scheme just after the north-east version.
‘California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business,’ the governors said in a joint statements.
The nine states combined account for more than 98 million people, close to 30 per cent of the population of the U.S., and more than 30 per cent of GDP.
WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE? CAN TRUMP TELL THE GOVERNORS TO OPEN UP ALL BY HIMSELF?
Donald Trump is putting himself on a collision course with governors by insisting that he can reopen the economy single-handed.
He is also inserting himself into some of the oldest powers of the states and one of the areas of the constitution which has been litigated many times in the Supreme Court, rarely coming to the position he is advocating.
Trump has already justified not issuing a nationwide stay-at-home order by saying it’s the ‘constitution’ which gives that powers to governors.
He did not say explicitly how, but the Tenth Amendment is where states derive their key powers from in times of public health emergency.
It says: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’
That means broadly that anything not spelled out in the constitution as being a federal government power is a state power.
Additionally, each of the 13 states incorporated ‘common law’ into their constitutions when they declared independence.
Common law is the long-held conventions which give sweeping ‘police powers’ – the power to guarantee people are safe and healthy – to deal with public health emergencies to the states.
At the time, locking people down for quarantine was hardly unusual; after the Revolutionary War yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia.
The Tenth Amendment was also uncontroversial, establishing that the states were governments in their own rights.
Chief Justice John Marshall used a ruling on interstate commerce in 1824 to make clear that ‘police powers’ were for the states alone.
Since then, the Supreme Court has ruled that those powers are sweeping when it comes to public health, including making compulsory vaccination constitutional.
Trump is unlikely to be able to simply over-rule governors and tell them to open up the economy if they rule it is unsafe. Any governor he over-ruled could date him into a Supreme Court showdown, citing the Tenth Amendment being upheld
But he – or the federal government more widely – can challenge whether a quarantine is really necessary, and ultimately he could try to use federal funding to leverage how governors behave.