In another interview Tuesday morning on CNN’s “New Day,” Cuomo explicitly threatened legal action against the administration if Trump “ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health” of New Yorkers.
“We would have a constitutional challenge between the state and the federal government, and that would go into the courts, and that would be the worst possible thing he could do at this moment,” he said.
The governor’s remarks came after the president asserted Monday that he alone had the power to reopen wide swaths of the United States regardless of stay-at-home orders issued by the nation’s governors and other local officials to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said at the White House coronavirus task force’s daily news briefing. “And that’s the way it’s got to to be. It’s total. It’s total. And the governors know that.”
The president’s sweeping claim of supremacy contradicted the basic tenets of the Constitution and the views of legal scholars who have laid out the limits of federal power with regard to the machinations of state governments.
Trump’s statements also represented a departure from the administration’s management of the outbreak thus far — which has encouraged governors to secure their own sorely needed medical equipment and enforce constraints on Americans’ movements.
On Tuesday, Cuomo described the White House’s new argument for the president’s authority as a confounding about-face in the federal government’s response to the public health crisis.
“This is a much different federal model that the president was alluding to than the federal model that he actually employed,” he told CNN, adding that Trump’s latest approach “makes no sense. It’s schizophrenic.”
Later in the morning, the president hit back at Cuomo, suggesting the governor was being ungrateful for the federal assistance the administration had provided.
“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.,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”
Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut also accused Trump of sending a “mixed message” with his declaration of dominance over state-level decision-making.
“The governors are trying to speak with a unified voice and say, ‘This is the time to make sure the social distancing stays disciplined. This is no time to take our eye off the ball,’” he told CNN. “That would be dangerous.”
Despite Trump’s desire to dictate the terms of the country’s emergence from the outbreak, Cuomo and Lamont joined with the governors of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island in announcing plans Monday to coordinate a regional reopening of the East Coast.
State executives on the West Coast — including the governors of California, Oregon and Washington — also detailed their own shared proposals to begin gradually easing restrictions.
The president mocked those arrangements Tuesday, comparing the situation to the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” which he revealed “was one of my all time favorite movies.”
“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. “Too easy!”