President Trump blasted the “fake news media” in a tweet Monday, claiming that he, not state governors, has the ultimate authority to loosen restrictions on states as the coronavirus outbreak eases, an assertion strongly disputed by legal experts.
“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.
“It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue,” Trump continued. “A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”
….It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2020
However, several legal experts said that, while Trump can issue federal regulations to prevent the spread of diseases, he does not have the authority to reverse a public health restriction put in place at the state or local level.
“The president can issue reasonable necessary federal-level quarantine orders,” said Elie Honig, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor in New York, told The Hill on Monday. “I don’t see any mechanism or constitutional principle that would apply here that would allow the president to come in and overrule the governors.”
“State and local governments have strong police power to protect their citizens and so I’m unaware of any way in which the federal government could basically try to override anything the states and cities have been doing to protect the public health of their citizens,” said William Buzbee, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and an expert in federalism.
“Since the president has mainly acted in a sort of bully pulpit sort of way, there’s nothing in particular that he would be reversing or restarting,” Buzbee told CNBC.
“I don’t know what it means for the president to ‘open up the states,’” conservative legal scholar Josh Blackman told NBC News on Monday.
“The president does make certain declarations about critical infrastructure and other guidelines that states generally follow. But the president cannot order the governors to do anything. I don’t even think he could withhold funding from states, absent a congressional appropriation,” he said.