A CNN screen shot of Donald Trump’s White House briefing on Coronavirus, April 13, 2020

Angered by exposure of his denial and mismanagement of the Coronavirus crisis, Donald Trump falsely claims “total authority” over State governors and stay-at-home orders.

Trump held the first White House briefing in three days, after almost 36 hours of fuming over a lengthy New York Times exposé of an Administration wasting two months as Coronavirus spread across the US.

He had tweeted, “I am working hard to expose the corruption and dishonesty in the Lamestream Media.” He retweeted a demand from a Republican politician for the firing of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House expert on infectious diseases, because Fauci said, “You could logically say if you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives.”

See also TrumpWatch, Day 1,779: Coronavirus — Medical Advisors and Governors Push Back Trump Over Social Distancing
Video: 21st Century Medicine Show — Trump, The Fox “Doctors”, The Bitcoin Speculator, The Billionaire, and the Coronavirus “Wonder Drug”

As Trump spoke, the US death toll rose to 23,628, the highest in the world.

But he opened by playing a campaign-style video and proclaiming, “Most importantly, we’re going to get back on to the reason we’re here, which is the success we’re having.”

“Total Authority”

Trump has been chafing at the social distancing guidelines belatedly announced by the Administration on March 16. Medical advisors and governors pushed him back from lifting the measures by Easter, and over the weekend they challenged his intention to “re-open” the US by May 1.

All but eight states have full stay-at-home orders, with three imposing partial restrictions. On Monday, nine governors from states on the East and West Coasts announced their intention to coordinate any gradual lifting of the measures.

So on Monday morning, Trump tweeted his false declaration that he could take control from the governors.

A journalist asked at the briefing, “What provision in the Constitution gives the president the power to open or close state economies?”

Trump offered no specific reference but maintained, “Numerous provisions. We’ll give you a legal brief if you want.”

He implicitly chided the stay-at-home orders saying the State governors who have held out against them have done a “really done a very good job. They’re very much different from a New York or from other places where they’ve been hit very hard.”

Then he proclaimed:

I’m going to put it very simply. The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The president of the United States calls the shots….

When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s going to be.

He threatened, “If some states refuse to open, I would like to see that person run for election. They’re going to open. They’re going to all open.”

Vice President Mike Pence covered Trump’s false claim of total power, “Make no mistake about it: In the long history of this country, the authority of the president of the United States during national emergencies is unquestionably plenary.”

Governors Act

Governors, who have taken the lead in dealing with the crisis amid the lack of Federal Government coordination, took the initiative on Monday with announcements of multi-state planning.

The Democratic governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island and Massachusetts’ Republican governor announced the formation of a regional working group on a reopening plan.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in contrast to Trump’s sweeping declarations, spoke of the need for care in lifting restrictions:

Because if you do it wrong, it can backfire. We’ve seen that in other places on the globe.

Everyone is very anxious to get out of the house, get back to work, get the economy moving. Everyone agrees with that. What the art form is going to be here is doing that smartly and doing that productively, and doing that in a coordinated way, doing that in coordination with the other states that are in the area, and doing it as a cooperative effort, where we learn from each other.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker emphasized the need for a “ton of testing” to provide the necessary information for a safe resumption of business.

On the West Coast, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he and the governors of Oregon and Washington will collaborate on their plan.

Newsom spoke of a “bottom-up” approach for easing restrictions and “targeted interventions” to slow the spread of the virus: “You can’t deny basic fundamental facts,” Newsom said. “We will be driven by facts, we will be driven by evidence, will be driven by science, will be driven by our public health advisers.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo knocked back Trump’s claim of total authority: “We don’t have a king, we have an elected president.”

He said he would challenge the White House in court if Trump tries to reopen businesses without public health safeguards.

Trump Backs Off Punishment of Fauci — But Blows Up At Journalists

Trump did pull back from his implied threat of Fauci over the New York Times report and the doctor’s statement on Sunday that there could not be a re-opening of the US in the short-term: “If you just say, OK, it’s whatever, May 1, click, turn the switch on, obviously, if you do it in an all-or-none way, there’s an extraordinary risk of there being a rebound [of Coronavirus].”

Fauci took the podium to ease the controversy. He did not retract his comments, but in a carefully-convoluted statement, he said Trump has listened when advisors laid out steps for mitigation of the virus.

The doctor avoided the substance of the article, that Trump had blocked action throughout February and early March, and Trump gave a rambling, evasive answer.

CBS News’s Paula Reid finally intervened to note that Trump’s campaign-style video, lauding his supposed accomplishments, skipped over a month: “What did you do in February?”

Trump responded, “What do you do when you have no cases in the whole United States?” (In fact, as Reid noted, the first US cases were from late January.)

Pressed by Reid, “What did your administration do in February for the time that your travel ban [on entry from China of non-citizens] bought you?”, Trump exploded:

We did a lot. Look, look, you know you’re a fake. You know that. Your whole network, the way you cover it is fake, and most of you, and not all of you, but the people are wise to you. That’s why you have a lower approval rating than you’ve ever had before times probably three.

Late Monday, Trump retweeted a list from the “Trump War Room” of “what the Trump Administration was doing in February to combat the coronavirus”.

None of the entries were of substantial action.