Health and Science

New York Gov. Cuomo says Trump will have 'no fight with me' on coronavirus, but he's 'wrong' on the law

Key Points
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will not engage in a fight with President Donald Trump as tension escalated between the two this week over who has authority to reopen the U.S. economy.
  • Trump said he has "total" authority over the states and likened their actions to mutiny. 
  • Cuomo said Trump's statement that he has total authority is wrong and can't go uncorrected. 
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press conference.
Albin Lohr-Jones | Pacific Press | Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will not engage in a fight with President Donald Trump as tension escalated between the two this week over who has authority to reopen the U.S. economy. Trump said he has "total" authority over the states. 

"This is not time for politics, and it is no time to fight. I put my hand out in total partnership and cooperation with the president. If he wants a fight he's not going to get it from me. Period," Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany on Tuesday, adding that Trump is "wrong on the law" and his statement can't go uncorrected. 

On Monday, Cuomo announced a formal working group with several other Northeast governors to coordinate the region's Covid-19 mitigation efforts as well as any plans to reopen the states for business. Trump, later in the day, told reporters that only he had that power: "When somebody's the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's got to be," which prompted a sharp rebuke from Cuomo. 

"Our Founding Fathers understood and we have to remember today that the balance today between the state and the federal, the magnificent balance that is articulated in the Constitution, is the essence of our democracy," Cuomo said while displaying a quote from Alexander Hamilton.

"We don't have a king in this country, we didn't want a king. So we have a constitution and we elect a president," he said.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press conference.

Cuomo said it needed to be made clear whether Trump or individual governors have the right to lift social distancing restrictions put in place by the states in recent weeks that have shuttered nonessential businesses and kept people at home across much of the U.S. since mid-March. Governors in the Pacific Northwest also announced similar plans on Monday. Trump likened their actions to mutiny, saying Cuomo has been calling daily, if not hourly, begging for medical supplies and seems to want his independence now. "That won't happen," Trump said over Twitter. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Cuomo told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Trump had "basically declared himself King Trump." Cuomo added that what the president had said Monday claiming that he has the power to lift the coronavirus restrictions put in place by governors was a breaking of the Constitution. 

Legal experts say Trump is wrong to claim he has the authority to decide when businesses will reopen. They say the U.S. law gives state governors wide latitude to protect the health and safety of their constituents, adding that the federal government never imposed a nationwide lockdown to reverse. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also criticized the federal government earlier on Monday for failing to adequately provide an appropriate amount of coronavirus tests.  Even as testing across the U.S. expanded from 300,000 total tests about three weeks ago to 3 million, according to White House officials, de Blasio said supplies remain so scarce that New York City has to prioritize who will be tested for the disease.

"If the federal government can't figure it out, then get out of the way and let us at the local level get this done," de Blasio said at a press conference. "But support us. Get us the components.

— CNBC's Kevin Breuninger and Christina Wilkie contributed to this report. 

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