Trump tells governors they will be 'calling the shots' on easing coronavirus restrictions days after falsely claiming he has 'total' authority

Associated PressPresident Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  • President Donald Trump on Thursday told governors they will decide when to reopen the economy and ease coronavirus restrictions.
  • “You’re going to be calling the shots. We’ll be standing right alongside of you, and we’re going to get our country open and get it working. People want to get working,” Trump said during a phone call with governors.
  • Less than a week ago, Trump falsely claimed he has “total” authority over when to reopen the country as president. The Constitution says otherwise.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump on Thursday told governors he would not seek to force them to rapidly rescind coronavirus restrictions in order to stimulate the economy, and that such decisions would be left up to them at the state level.

This came just days after Trump falsely asserted he has “total” authority as president.

“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told the governors in a phone call, according to a recording of the conversation obtained by the New York Times.

“You’re going to be calling the shots. We’ll be standing right alongside of you, and we’re going to get our country open and get it working. People want to get working,” Trump added.

While discussing his desire to see the country reopened for the sake of the economy on Monday, however, Trump said: “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s got to be.”

But the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution says otherwise: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In short, the federal government (including the president) does not have limitless powers, and the 10th Amendment explicitly grants states authority over powers not given to the US government via the Constitution. States and local governments, for example, have control over public schools, which they own and operate. The president can therefore not order governors, mayors, or other local leaders to reopen them.

The 10th Amendment also affords states “police powers,” or the authority to regulate behaviour for the health, welfare, and safety of their citizens.

As Trump on Thursday told governors that the timeline on when to ease restrictions will be left up to them, the White House released proposed guidelines for states to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The draft plan gives governors and local leaders criteria, but not a specific timeline (Trump had floated the possibility of May 1) for when to reopen. It says, for example, that hospitals should be treating patients without “crisis care” and establish a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

The US, which is the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, has struggled to deploy a comprehensive, reliable system of testing for the virus due to early stumbles on the federal level.

Because of the pandemic, roughly 95% of Americans are living under some form of a lockdown, and governors across the country have ordered nonessential businesses to close. The economy has taken a massive hit because of this, with approximately 22 million filing for unemployment in the past four weeks.

As the economy collapses, Trump has grown increasingly impatient with social distancing guidelines, frequently calling for them to be eased so the economy can recover. But public health experts, including top officials on the White House coronavirus task force like Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned that rushing to reopen the country could exacerbate the crisis.

Earlier this week, Fauci told the Associated Press the US needs strong testing and tracing procedures in place before it can consider reopening the economy. “We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said.

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