President Trump said in a contentious press briefing Monday that he has total authority to reopen states, but legal experts say he’s wrong.
According to CNBC, Trump said the decision as to when to reopen states is his decision alone. However, legal experts say U.S. law gives state governors wide authority to protect the health and safety of their constituents. Additionally, Trump did not declare a nationwide lockdown, so the thought that he can order a nationwide reopening is false.
“The president of the United States calls the shots,” Trump said at his evening news briefing. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”
When asked what provisions of the Constitution gave him that power, he said, “Numerous provisions,” but Trump did not name any. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total.”
William Buzbee, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and an expert in federalism, told CNBC the federal government cannot override governors.
“State and local governments have strong police power to protect their citizens and so I’m unaware of any way in which the federal government could basically try to override anything the states and cities have been doing to protect the public health of their citizens,” Buzbee said. “Since the president has mainly acted in a sort of bully pulpit sort of way, there’s nothing in particular that he would be reversing or restarting.”
Conservative legal scholar Josh Blackman agreed with Buzbee, saying, “I don’t know what it means for the president to ‘open up the states.’
Ignoring Trump, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, John Carney of Delaware, and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island have joined forces to create joint recommendations on how they can reopen their economies. On Monday night, Cuomo reported that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has also joined the group.
The governors said in a conference call Monday they will name a public health official, an economic official, and their respective chiefs of staff to work on the plan. The governors emphasized the importance of working collectively to ensure safety and success.
“Study the data, study the research, study the experiences of other countries, and give us guidelines and parameters to go forward. Let’s be smart and let’s be cooperative and let’s learn from one another,” Cuomo said.
The governors of California, Washington, and Oregon also announced a similar plan Monday also ignoring Trump’s claims.
Trump’s behavior during the outbreak has been seen as erratic by many since the outbreak hit the U.S. Trump has attacked reporters, accused medical professionals of stealing protective equipment, and touted unapproved drugs.