Trump backs down on declaration that only he can give order to reopen US

Hours after accusing Democratic governors of a “mutiny” for signalling they would ignore any presidential order to reopen their states amid the coronavirus outbreak, Donald Trump backed down from the threat after claiming his “authority is total”.

This was Mr Trump during a combative Monday evening press conference when speaking about his perceived power to reopen the country with a single declaration: “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.”

About 24 hours later, the president backed down. The reversal came at warp speed – even for Mr Trump, who has whipsawed from one policy stance or legal rationale to another, and sometimes to yet another.

“These will be individual dates,” Mr Trump said, threatening to “close them down and start over” if a governor’s plan is deemed by federal officials to be ineffective. “I’m not putting any pressure on the governors.”

Getting ahead of his own promised announcement on opening the country, the president said “we’ll open it in beautiful little pieces”.

Instead, he said he intends to allow each state chief executive craft a reopening plan that works for their state, claiming he will use his “total” power to approve those plans.

Legal experts of all political stripes say the lone way Mr Trump likely would win a court battle over the authority would be to claim a national security authority – but that likely would be an easier sell to a court on closing the economy, not reopening it.

When pressed to point to the part of the constitution that would allow him – and only him – to reopen the country, Mr Trump on Monday evening could not. The White House never produced such a legal rationale on Tuesday.

Mr Trump has said he wants some or all of the country “open for business” by May 1.

Saying again he is working on plans to achieve that, he said he is nearing a decision on whether that would be possible, at least for some states or regions.

The president, as he often does, tried to shift blame to governors a night after taking it from them on Monday night, saying “the states have their own testing”.

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