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Trump: Governors flirting with mutiny over economy restart

Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller
Associated Press

Washington – Invoking the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty,” President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that objections by governors to his claim of absolute authority over when to lift guidelines aimed at fighting the coronavirus were tantamount to insurrection.

Democratic and Republican governors sounded the alarm after Trump asserted that he and he alone will determine when and how to reopen the economy, despite clear constitutional limitations on federal powers.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Trump, for his part, indicated he was relishing the fight with state officials — particularly those in hard-hit states run by Democrats — who have voiced fears that the president’s ambitious timetable could lead to a resurgence of a virus that is still killing more than 1,000 Americans a day.

“A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch, especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain,” Trump tweeted Tuesday, adding, “Too easy!”

Anxious to put the crisis behind him and to deflect criticism of his handling of the pandemic, Trump has been discussing how to roll back federal social distancing recommendations that expire at the end of the month. He is set to launch a new advisory council that will hash out plans to reopen the American economy, which has dramatically contracted as businesses have shuttered, leaving millions of people out of work.

But after weeks of saying he would leave major decisions in the hands of states, Trump abruptly reversed course on Monday, claiming that his power, despite clear constitutional limitations, was absolute.

“When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said at the White House. “The governors know that.”

The president declined to offer specifics about the source of his asserted power, claiming he would provide a legal briefing at a later date.

But governors in both parties made clear they saw things differently, and said they would decide when it’s safe to begin a return to normal operations, just as they were the ones who closed things down.

“The president’s position is just absurd,” said New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an appearance Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.” “It’s not the law. It’s not the Constitution. We don’t have a king. We have a president.”