Cuomo Says He Would Defy a Trump Order to Reopen New York; President Backs Down

The governor of New York reacted angrily to the president's assertion that when it came to his power to reopen states, "the authority is total"

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What to Know

  • President Trump shocked people Monday night when he said his "authority is total" to order virus-stricken states to reopen, leading the hashtag #DictatorTrump to trend nationwide on Twitter
  • NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a frequent sparring partner of the president, said he would defy any order to reopen if it endangered public health
  • Cuomo raised the specter of an unprecedented constitutional crisis and said governors should not waste their time watching Trump's news conferences

President Donald Trump may think his authority to reopen the states is absolute, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo begs to differ.

Trump stunned during his Monday night news conference when he said it was up to him and not the governors to decide when to reopen daily life in coronavirus-stricken states, and that as president "the authority is total."

Cuomo, never one to hold back, blasted the notion in a series of appearances Tuesday morning.

""The statement that he has total authority over the states and the nation cannot go uncorrected," Cuomo said at his own daily press briefing, in which he quoted Alexander Hamilton at length on the nature of government.

He also offered what he called a personal opinion on the matter.

"The president is clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue. The worst thing we can do in all of this is start with political division and start with partisanship," he said. "This is no time for politics. This is no time to fight ... if he wants a fight he's not going to get it from me, period. This is going to take us working together."

The governor insisted that reopening schools, businesses and public spaces too early would lead to more infections and more deaths, which is why the decision needed to be made locally.

"I don't know what the president is talking about, frankly," he said earlier in the day in a Today Show interview. "You have to remember it's the states that created the federal government, right? It's the colonies that created the federal government, not the other way around. We don't have a king, we have a president."

"The president's just wrong on that point," Cuomo added. "If he pushed it to that absurd point, then we would have a problem."

We don't have a king, we have a president.

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

He doubled down in a later interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe, saying governors should not waste their time watching the president's news conferences.

"A governor should not watch that. There's no value in it. It is infuriating and offensive and frankly ignorant of the facts," he said. "It's frightening. It is frightening. This is the last place we should be."

New York's three-term governor pushed the point even further in a CNN interview, saying he'd defy a presidential order and sue in the courts if need be.

""If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn't do it," Cuomo said.

Trump took to Twitter to fire back -- sharply -- after Cuomo's fourth TV appearance of the morning.

Cuomo's anger stood in stark contrast to his appearance on The Howard Stern Show just a day prior, where the governor praised Trump for delivering for New York.

At his evening press conference outside the White House Tuesday, Trump appeared to back down from his previous statements and said he was fine with governors choosing how and when to reopen their own states.

"I'm not going to put pressure on any governor to open," Trump said. "I'm not going to say to Governor Cuomo, 'You have to open within seven days.'"

As of Tuesday morning, New York accounted for more than one-third of all U.S. cases of COVID-19 and roughly half of all deaths in the country.

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