Trump: 'I Have the Ultimate Authority' to Reopen the Economy

By Susan Jones | April 14, 2020 | 5:48am EDT
President Donald Trump says he's working on a reopening plan. So are the nation's governors. (Photo: Screen capture)
President Donald Trump says he's working on a reopening plan. So are the nation's governors. (Photo: Screen capture)

( - President Donald Trump, asked what "authority"  he has to reopen our virus-phobic country, told a news conference on Monday, "Well, I have the ultimate authority."

I've been having many discussions with my team and top experts and we're very close to completing a plan to open our country, hopefully, even ahead of schedule, and that's so important.

We will soon finalize new and very important guidelines to give governors the information they need to start safely opening their states. My administration's plan and corresponding guidelines will give the American people the confidence they need to begin returning to normal life.

That's what we want. We want to have our country open, we want to return to normal life. Our country is going to be open and it's going to be successfully opened, and we'll be explaining over very short number of days exactly what is going to be.

We've also, as you've probably heard, developed a committee. We're actually calling in a number of committees with the most prominent people in the country, the most successful people in the various fields. And we'll be announcing them tomorrow (Tuesday).

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has mentioned May 1 as a target reopening date, and he was asked on Monday if that date is feasible:

"I have had discussions with the president. I know he is considering it, and I believe he is going to make a decision later in the week," Mnuchin told the news conference.

"Everything has to be safe. We want safe," Trump interjected.

Mnuchin said the administration is working closely with medical professionals, business leaders and the president "to develop a plan."

Trump said he'll "probably be making a statement about that and exactly what it looks like," in the next few days.

While Trump mulls his plan, the governors of six Northeastern states are developing a coordinated plan of their own.

While the president insists that he has the ultimate authority to reopen the states, some of those six governors indicated otherwise at a Monday teleconference:

"Well, seeing as how we had the responsibility for closing the state down, I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up," Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas Wolf said on Monday. "We're simply saying it was our responsibility to steer our way through these uncharted waters, and--and it's our responsibility to figure out a way back."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants to see what the federal government's reopening plan is:

Governor Wolf's point was right," Cuomo said:

He (Trump) 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 the states' decision, and then the states were responsible for purchasing supplies, etc. So that was the model of management for this disaster, emergency that was promulgated thus far.

If they want to change the model, they can change the model. He is the president of the United States. He is the federal government. And it is still Civics 101. It's federal, state, local government.

He wants to change the management model, we look at the laws, state governance, federal governance, let him change the model consistent with the Constitution, consistent with the law, but then change the model and explain it.

What does that mean, the federal government is in charge of opening? Are you going to say when each state can open or should open? Are you going to set a formula, and that says any jurisdiction of X population that has X infection rate should be open or closed, any population of X infection rate, these are the activities, this is what can be on public transit, this is what can be on the roads? Any jurisdiction that opens must have the following precautions? You must have a mask, you must have gloves? You can do that. That could be a model where they set a federal program that the states can follow and should follow. But then you have to be specific.

Cuomo noted the states "don't have the capacity to test."

"So you want to change the management model, you can do that as president, but what is the model? And let's learn from the past, right? Because this was not smooth sailing up till today. Let's be honest."

"But yeah, you're president of the United States. You want to put forth a management model, let's hear the model," Cuomo said.

President Trump, at Monday's news conference, said "numerous provisions" in the Constitution give him the power to open or close state economies. "We'll give you a legal brief if you want it," Trump told a reporter.

The reporter asked the president, "What happens if you say, for instance, we want states to reopen but California or New York do not open? What would you do then?

"Well, I think everybody wants to open. I mean, I guess--you know, that could happen. But I don't think that would happen."

Trump said the states were the ones to order schools and businesses closed amid the pandemic because "I let that happen. But if I wanted to, I could have closed up. But I let that happen, and I like the way they've done it."

Asked about the six Northeast states and the three West Coast states that are taking a coordinated approach to reopening their economies, Trump said it doesn't undermine what he is planning to do:

I'm going to put a very simply. The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The president of the United States calls the shots.

If we weren't here for the states, you would have had a problem in this country like you've never seen before. We were here to back them up and we back--we've more than backed them up. We did a job that nobody ever thought was possible.

It's a decision for the president of the United States. Now, with that being said, we're going to work with the states because it's very important. You have local governments. They're pinpointed. It's really--you talk about--it's a--like a microchip. They're pinpointed. We have local government that hopefully will do a good job.

And if they don't do a good job, I'd step in so fast. But no, they can't do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.

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