Trump eyes reopening US economy but assailed over ‘king’ powers

By: AFP      Published: 01:57 AM, 15 Apr, 2020
Trump eyes reopening US economy but assailed over ‘king’ powers
President Donald Trump.–File photo

President Donald Trump was accused Tuesday of seeking king-like powers ahead of unveiling a task force for reopening the US economy despite fears in hard-hit states that he will rush the decision.

Facing a tough reelection in November, the Republican president is eager to get the world’s biggest economy back on its feet as quickly as possible.

But his threat to invoke disputed “total” constitutional powers forcing state governors to follow his orders has prompted an outcry.

“We don’t have King Trump, we have President Trump,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on CNN.

A combative Trump then responded by likening skeptical governors to rebellious sailors in the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

He has so far bowed—often reluctantly—to resistance from medical experts who argue that relaxing social distancing and allowing people back to work prematurely would spark a coronavirus second wave.

But with Tuesday’s expected White House announcement of the team tasked with setting up the reopening, Trump was taking the first step in what he calls the “biggest decision” of his life.

For weeks, Trump has veered between supporting a sudden, large-scale reopening and a cautious, case-by-case relaxation of mitigation measures. Recently he has hinted at some sort of shift in the situation starting May 1.

Reflecting the sense of instability, economic powerhouses California and New York, both led by Democrats, are developing their own reopening plans, insisting that Trump will not set the pace.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom, who has joined forces with Oregon and Washington state, said he would not announce any concrete timing for at least another two weeks.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “I don’t want to make a political decision that puts people’s lives at risk and puts the economy at even more risk.”

Talks are underway for eventual reopening of restaurants, schools and businesses but many social distancing procedures are likely to be retained, including wider spacing at meal times and wearing of masks, he said.

“Normal, it will not be,” he warned.

No ‘King’ Trump

On Monday at his daily press conference, Trump raised eyebrows when he insisted that he can override state governors and determine the reopening schedule.

“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said.

“It’s total. And the governors know that ... They can’t do anything without the approval of the president.”

Trump’s claim of absolute authority—disputed by constitutional experts—took long-running confusion over who is in charge to a new height.

Trump, having previously argued vociferously that he is not responsible for managing the crisis, is now being accused of seeking monarchical powers to impose his will.

“We ran away from having a king, and George Washington was president, not King Washington. So the president doesn’t have total authority,” Cuomo told CNN.

“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,” he said.

Trump quickly fired back on Twitter claiming that Cuomo “seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”

Shortly after, he compared the situation to “Mutiny on the Bounty,” which he said was one of his favorite films.

“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,” he tweeted.

Trump’s election rival, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, leapt in, tweeting that he was “not running for office to be King of America.”

“I respect the Constitution. I’ve read the Constitution,” Biden tweeted.

Until the coronavirus erupted across the United States early this year, after first sweeping from China to Europe, Trump had been banking on the strong economy and record low unemployment to win him another four years, despite a first term rocked by constant scandal and impeachment.

The former real estate tycoon and reality television performer now faces millions of new jobless, stalled factories, questions over his leadership and an increasingly united opposition Democratic Party.

In a new warning sign for Trump’s campaign, the candidate he endorsed for a Supreme Court seat in the electorally crucial state of Wisconsin was defeated by a Democrat-backed challenger in a huge upset.