I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, April 14, 2020. 203 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
Trump claims "total" authority to reopen economy; Governors, experts balk
President Donald Trump claimed on Monday that he has "total" authority over deciding when the U.S. economy is reopened after shuttering due to the coronavirus pandemic. But governors from both parties, as well as legal experts, were quick to clarify that his assertion had little basis in the Constitution.
"When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total," Trump said at his daily press briefing. "The governors know that."
Earlier in the day, he tweeted a similar declaration: "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. . . Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect. It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons."
Trump declined to offer the legal statute that granted him such far-reaching powers. In fact, he has spent much of the pandemic urging governors to make individual decisions about enforcing stay-at-home orders in their states (or not) and minimizing the federal role in dispensing supplies to combat the virus. The federal government has only issued guidelines geared at social distancing, and can do little (beyond issuing advisories and recommendations) to reopen businesses and services that it did not close.
Despite his sudden claim on Monday that the governors "can't do anything without the approval of the president of the United States," the 10th Amendment to the Constitution states the opposite: "the powers not delegated to the United States [federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Trump's claim flew in the face of this long-held system of federalism, as well as decades of Republican Party orthodoxy on the issue.
"The federal government can’t give orders to governors," constitutional law professor Josh Blackman told the Washington Post. "That’s a very simple fact of life."
“All of these executive orders are state executive orders and so, therefore, it would be up to the state and the governor to undo a lot of that,” Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) told CNN.
"You don't become king because there's a federal emergency," Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) said in his own interview with the network, adding this morning that he would ignore an order from Trump to reopen his state if he felt it endangered public health.
As Trump made his "total" authority comment, Cuomo and other governors announced plans to band together and coordinate plans for their re-openings, a rejection of the president's claim that the federal government had decison-making power in the area.
Cuomo of New York joined the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island in forming a bipartisan "Multi-State Council" to make unified decisions across the Northeast; the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announced a similar "Western States Pact" on Monday as well.
According to NPR, President Trump is expected to name the members of his own "Opening our Country Council" today, although it is unclear what the authority or mission of the new task force will be. Fox News previously reported that the group will include most of the president's top economic advisers, as well as his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, although the president said later Monday that Kushner and the younger Trump will not be members of the task force after all.
"We're going to be putting out guidelines and recommendations fairly quickly, within a few days," he promised. Trump has previously pointed to May 1 as a target date to call for the nation to be re-opened, although medical experts (including some in his own administration) have warned that such a goal could be unrealistic.
Trump also used Monday's briefing — his longest yet — to criticize members of the news media and express frustration that he was not receiving enough praise for his coronavirus response. As the New York Times reported, "President Trump turned Monday’s daily coronavirus task force briefing into an aggressive defense of his own halting response to the pandemic and used a campaign-style video to denounce criticism that he moved too slowly to limit the deadly spread of the virus."
Pressed by a CBS News reporter to detail the steps he took in February to stem the virus' spread — after any actions from the month were noticeably missing in the video played by the White House — Trump replied: "A lot, a lot," although he did not name any specific actions.
Trump also used the briefing to praise Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, after retweeting a message on Sunday that declared it was "time to #FireFauci."
"I retweeted somebody. I don't know, they said, 'fire.' Doesn't matter," Trump said, adding: "I like him. I think he is terrific."
--- Latest count: As of 9 a.m. Eastern Time, 1,934,583 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University; 120,863 deaths have been reported from the pandemic. In the United States, there are now 582,594 confirmed cases and 23,649 confirmed deaths.
Sanders endorses Biden, unifying party ahead against Trump
From the Associated Press:
"Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Monday, encouraging his progressive supporters to rally behind the presumptive Democratic nominee in an urgent bid to defeat President Donald Trump."
"'I am asking all Americans, I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans, to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse,' the Vermont senator said in a virtual event with Biden."
"The backing came less than a week after Sanders ended his presidential campaign, which was centered around progressive policies such as universal health care. There were early signs that some leading progressives weren’t ready to fully follow Sanders’ lead. And Trump’s campaign was eager to use the endorsement to tie Biden more closely to Sanders, whose identity as a democratic socialist is objectionable to Republicans and some Democrats."
"Still, Sanders’ embrace of Biden was crucial for someone who is tasked with bridging the Democratic Party’s entrenched ideological divides. Democratic disunity helped contribute to Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016."
"Perhaps eager to avoid a repeat of that bruising election year, Sanders offered his endorsement much earlier in the 2020 campaign. Sanders backed Clinton four years ago, but only after the end of a drawn-out nomination fight and a bitter dispute over the Democratic platform that extended to the summer convention."
. . . "The coronavirus prevented Biden and Sanders from appearing together in person. But they made clear they would continue working together, announcing the formation of six “task forces” made up of representatives from both campaigns to work on policy agreements addressing health care, the economy, education, criminal justice, climate change and immigration."
--- Also on Monday: Biden was declared the winner of last week's Wisconsin primary, which was conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats also scored a significant victory in the swing state, as a conservative, Trump-backed state Supreme Court justice lost his re-election bid to a liberal challenger.
President Donald Trump will participate in a meeting with recovered COVID-19 patients at 11:30 a.m., receive his intelligence briefing at 2 p.m., and participate in a meeting with health care executives at 3:30 p.m.
Vice President Mike Pence will lead a meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at 2:30 p.m.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force will hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.
The House and Senate are not in session.
The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has no events scheduled.
*All times Eastern
Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please consider donating to support me and my work, listening to my podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, and spreading the word about the newsletter to your friends and family. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, go to wakeuptopolitics.com to subscribe and learn more.