Trump chides Cuomo for seeking 'independence' in coronavirus response

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer

The fallout from President Trump’s brazen assertion of what amounted to dictatorial power over the economy took on echoes of the American Revolution Tuesday morning as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Trump not to act like a “king” and Trump accused the governor of seeking “Independence.”

The latest eruption in Trump’s off-and-on war of words with Cuomo and other governors was prompted by the president’s insistence Monday that he had “total” authority to override any state, city or county that attempts to keep lockdown measures in place to control the spread of the coronavirus. Trump is eager to restart the nation’s economy, but governors — and some of the administration’s own medical experts — warn that moving too quickly could reignite the pandemic, which has shown signs of leveling off in recent days. 

“We don’t have King Trump. We have President Trump,” Cuomo told CNN. “So the president should not even think of going there. That would be divisive and political, and it would be totally contrary to everything we have been trying to do by working in a cooperative fashion.”

Addressing both stay-at-home orders and another contentious issue between the federal government and the states, control over distribution of critically needed medical supplies, Cuomo said Trump had completely reversed his position from a few weeks ago, from leaving it up to the states to seeking complete control, calling it a “180” that made “no sense.”

Trump fired back shortly after with a tweet:

“Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything, most of which should have been the state’s responsibility, such as new hospitals, beds, ventilators, etc,” wrote Trump in a tweet Tuesday morning. “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”

“The president is clearly spoiling for a fight,” said Cuomo later Tuesday during his daily press conference, but added he wasn’t interested. “Sometimes it ... takes more strength, frankly, to walk away from a fight than engage it. The president will have no fight with me. I will not engage it.”

As numerous reports are published detailing the federal government’s failures in preparing for the coronavirus behind the scenes as Trump downplayed the disease publicly, the president has become increasingly agitated. During Monday’s briefing, Trump played a heavily edited video attempting to show his administration had always taken the coronavirus seriously. He called on Dr. Anthony Fauci to explain comments he made over the weekend implying that earlier mitigation efforts directed at the pandemic could have saved lives.

President Trump speaks about the coronavirus on Monday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“Obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend. Trump called him to the microphone Monday to clarify that those remarks were not meant as criticism of the president.

Trump, who has become increasingly aggressive in his assertion of personal power in recent weeks, went even further Monday, stating, “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s got to be — it’s total. And the governors know that.” Trump has stated in recent days that even though there was no federally mandated shutdown and that the orders came from governors and mayors, there could be a federally mandated reopening.

 Cuomo told NBC News that he would oppose any push from the federal government to reopen New York if public health experts said it was dangerous.

“If he says to me, ‘I declare it open,’ and that is a public health risk or it’s reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it,” Cuomo said in an interview on “Today.”

Cuomo wasn’t the only governor to push back against Trump’s insistence that he has the power to reopen the country. Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, a Republican, responded similarly on Monday.

“It was our call through executive order … to go to essential businesses only versus having to make the tough decision to shut down nonessential businesses to going to groups of 10 or less in terms of social meetings and things of that nature,” Sununu said in an interview with CNN. “What we did with restaurants with takeout orders. All of these are state executive orders, and so therefore it would be up to the state and the governor to undo a lot of that.”

Trump added a tweet where he likened himself to the captain of the ship and the country’s governors as mutineers against his authority.

Cuomo warned that a struggle between governors and the president would provoke “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades, where states tell the federal government, ‘We’re not going to follow your order.’ It would be terrible for this country. It would be terrible for this president.”

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Click here for the latest coronavirus news and updates. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please refer to the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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