- “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s gotta be,” Trump said at a coronavirus press briefing on Monday.
- Trump’s comment comes after two sets of governors, one on the West Coast and one on the East, formed pacts to work together to reopen their economies.
- Trump argued that the federal government has authority over states on when to reopen, even though it was governors who closed their states, not Trump.
- Tuesday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) said he would ignore orders from Trump if he thought they would endanger people in New York, saying, “We don’t have a king.”
President Says He Has “Total” Authority
President Donald Trump asserted that the authority given to him as president is “total” as he worked to establish power over governors likely hoping to keep the economy closed longer than he wishes.
“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s gotta be,” he said at a White House press briefing on Monday.
Though Trump is no stranger to striking claims, this most recent one is especially bold. It is also false. The constitution does not give the president complete power; in fact, it establishes a series of checks and balances specifically to prevent that.
Still, that doesn’t mean Trump’s comments won’t have potentially major consequences. They came following the announcement that the governors of seven Northeastern states—New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts— will form a coalition to fight the virus and begin early planning to reopen the economy. On the West Coast, California, Oregon, and Washington state made a similar pact.
Both of those pacts are largely an attempt by states to cooperate with one another and to prevent another outbreak. Essentially, those governors want to make sure one state’s reopening doesn’t inadvertently hurt others.
However, those moves didn’t seem to sit well with Trump at all. Even before that press conference, on Monday, he rebuked the notion that they could reopen their states without him.
“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion,” he said on Twitter, “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….”
“….It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons,” he added. “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!”
At that press conference, reporters grilled Trump on this claim, several simply trying to make sure he understood what he had just said and that he hadn’t just called himself a total ruler.
“Okay,” Trump said, “you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to write up papers on this. It’s not going to be necessary because the governors need us one way or the other, because, ultimately, it comes with the federal government. That being said, we’re getting along very well with the governors, and I feel very certain that there won’t be a problem.”
Cuomo: “We don’t have a king. We have a president.”
“Look, if he pushed it to that absurd point, then we would have a problem,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning on The Today Show.
“If he thinks he’s going to force this state or any state, for that matter, to do something that is reckless or irresponsible, that could endanger human life, literally. Because if we don’t reopen correctly, you will see those virus numbers go up again, and more people will die.”
In that interview, Cuomo went on to say that since it had originally been his responsibility to shut down New York, it should also be his responsibility to reopen it. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has also echoed that message.
In fact, Trump never declared a national lockdown. Instead, individual states did. As such, he cannot reopen something that has not been shut down.
Cuomo also said he would defy an order from Trump if he thought it might put people in New York in danger.
“We don’t have a king,” he said. “We have a president. That was a big decision. We ran away from having a king, and George Washington was president, not King Washington. So the president doesn’t have total authority.”
As Cuomo notes, that could lead to a constitutional crisis as the state and federal governments fight for control. Notably, that means people might start cherry picking which rules to follow and which ones to ignore. That, in turn, could lead to less people following social distancing or stay-at-home orders, possibly leading to another surge in outbreaks.
Of course, that’s if state and federal governments can’t find some sort of common ground.
For their part, both sets of East Coast and West Coast governors say they’ll look at facts and science to determine when to reopen the economy,
“The virus knows no boundaries, knows no borders,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said. “You can’t build walls around it and you can’t deny basic fundamental facts. We will be driven by facts, we will be driven by evidence, will be driven by science, will be driven by our hub public health advisers.”
Though he did keep the economy closed through Easter at the recommendation of health officials like Doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, Trump has also been itching to reopen the economy.
In response to Cuomo’s notion that states may stay shut down longer than the president wants them to, Trump lashed out on Twitter at the governor Tuesday morning.
“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 said. “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”
At Monday’s press conference, Vice President Mike Pence did seem to partially walk back some of Trump’s comments, saying that the federal government will issue guidelines for states to follow when it comes to reopening the economy.
“As the president’s indicated, we’ll continue to respect the leadership and partnership that we’ve forged with every governor in America,” Pence said.
However, Pence also agreed that the president has absolute power during national emergencies.
“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,” he said.
Trump is expected to potentially announce a task force dedicated to reopening the economy as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
As far as governors go, the West Coast set of governors is also expected to outline their plans to reopen the government Tuesday.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (NBC News)
Former Aide Accuses New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of Sexual Harassment
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was accused of sexual harassment by his former aide Lindsey Boylan in an essay she published on Medium Wednesday.
- Boylan claimed she was subjected to inappropriate remarks and behavior from the governor for years, including an instance in 2018 where he allegedly kissed her without her consent after a meeting.
- Boylan said Cuomo created an administration, “where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.”
- Cuomo denied the allegations, but Boylan’s essay comes as numerous current and former top officials have recently accused the governor of engaging in intimidation and creating a hostile work environment.
Lindsey Boylan Details Allegations Against Cuomo
A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) published an essay Wednesday accusing him of sexual harassment, expanding on allegations she made in December. The aide, Lindsey Boylan, first made the accusations in a Twitter thread about women being harassed in the workplace.
“Yes, @NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years,” she wrote. “Many saw it, and watched.”
At the time, Boylan did not provide any more details to the media, and Cuomo denied the allegations.
“I fought for and I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has,” he said at a press conference after the accusations surfaced. “But it’s just not true.”
In her essay, published on Medium, Boylan accused Cuomo of subjecting her to several years of deeply uncomfortable situations, including an instance after a meeting in 2018 when he kissed her on the lips without her consent.
She claimed that Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs” and that over the years, “His inappropriate gestures became more frequent.”
These alleged actions also included one time in October 2017, where she said he sat across from her on a jet and said “Let’s play strip poker.” Boylan outlined a number of other inappropriate actions and comments she claimed the governor made. She even embedded screenshots from emails and text messages that she said supported her story. However, she said her fears got worse after the kiss in 2018, and that she “came to work nauseous every day” until she eventually resigned in September of that year.
Notably, Boyland additionally stated that Cuomo’s “pervasive harassment” extended to other women as well, and that he would make “unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues” and “ridiculed” them about their romantic relationships.
This kind of behavior, she said, was part of the culture Cuomo created in his administration, “where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.”
“He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences,” she said, stating that after she first tweeted the accusation in December, two other women reached out to her but were too afraid to speak.
One allegedly told Boylan she lived in fear of what would happen if she rejected Cuomo’s advances, and the other said he had instructed her to warn people who upset him that they risk losing their jobs.
Cuomo’s press secretary Caitlin Girouard responded to the allegations in a statement Wednesday by reiterating the governor’s past remarks.
“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” she told reporters.
Girouard also disputed Boylan’s story about the jet ride, sharing a statement from four current and former administration officials who were on one or more of the four flights in October 2017 that Boylan had taken with Cuomo.
“We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen,” the four officials said.
Boylan is by no means alone in some of her specific accusations. Cuomo’s last few weeks have been mired in scandal after a top aide revealed his administration had withheld nursing home data on COVID-related deaths. In the aftermath of the revelations and Cuomo’s handling of it, numerous top officials have accused the governor of intimidation, bullying, and fostering a toxic workplace.
Many of those accusations surfaced after New York Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), who has been an outspoken critic of Cuomo, claimed that the governor threatened to “destroy” him on a call last week.
Cuomo said Kim was lying about the conversation, but shortly after, many current and former aides and other insiders gave The New York Times similar accounts of aggressive behavior and intimidation.
Also on Wednesday, Karen Hinton, another ex-Cuomo staffer, published an op-ed in the New York Daily News that echoed many of Boylan’s claims about a toxic work environment for women.
That claim also appeared to be supported up by three people who worked in the governor’s office at the same time as Boylan. They told The Times it was true that Cuomo would make inappropriate remarks and comment on people’s appearances.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CBS News)
Former Capitol Security Officials Blame Intelligence Failures for Insurrection
- During the Senate’s first hearing into security failures that lead to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, top officials provided new insights but shirked responsibility.
- Many blamed the FBI for not gathering more information or properly communicating what they did know, arguing that the breakdown was a result of the intelligence community not taking domestic extremism seriously.
- Police leaders noted that a bulletin from an FBI field office warning of a “war” at the Capitol, issued a day before the insurrection, was not properly flagged or delivered.
- However, others noted that the Capitol Police had in fact issued an internal alert three days before warning of similar threats.
Security Officials Shirk Responsibility
Former top officials responsible for security at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection testified before the Senate for the first time Tuesday.
While the testimonies represented the most detailed accounts of the security failures leading up to and during attacks, they also raised questions about how those failures came out.
The top officials did acknowledge some of their own mistakes and admitted they were unprepared for such an event. Still, they largely deflected responsibility for the breakdown in communication and instead blamed intelligence officials, their subordinates, and even each other at times.
All of the officials testified that the FBI and the intelligence community had failed to detect information about the intentions of the pro-Trump insurrectionists and properly relay what they did know before the attack.
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee depicted the collapse in communication as a broader failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to take domestic extremism as seriously as foreign threats.
Specifically, both officials mentioned this in the context of a bulletin issued a day before the insurrection by the FBI’s office in Norfolk, Virginia. That bulletin warned of a “war” at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In his testimony, Sund — who resigned the day after the insurrection — disclosed for the first time that the alter had in fact been sent to the Capitol Police through the Joint Terrorism Task Force but said it was never forwarded to him or either of the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms.
Contee also said the D.C. police department received the warning, but it was a nondescript email and not labeled as a priority alert that would demand immediate attention.
“I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something,” he told the Senators.
However, lawmakers pointed out that the Capitol Police did have warnings about the attack in the form of their own internal intelligence report issued three days before the planned pro-Trump rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol.
In that 12-page memo, some of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the Capitol Police intelligence unit warned that “Congress itself” could be targeted by Trump supporters who believed the electoral college certification was “the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election.”
The memo also noted the large expected crowds, the fact that organizers had urged Trump supporters to bring guns and combat gear, and that “President Trump himself” had been promoting the chaos.
Two people familiar with the memo told The Post that the report had been relayed to all Capitol Police command staff, though in their testimonies Tuesday, the former security officials said the intel they had did not have enough specifics about the potential for an attack.
Some, however, appear to doubt the series of events detailed by Sund. On Tuesday, Buzzfeed filed a lawsuit against the Capitol Police for records related to the insurrection. The agency has been criticized for not providing enough information to the media, and contradictory testimonies delivered to Senators likely raised more red flags.
Lawmakers Emphasize Need for Better Precautions
The argument that there was so much vague, threatening online chatter making it hard to distinguish what was legitimate is something that many law enforcement officials have used to explain their failure to prepare for the attacks.
In fact, that was the exact same response the FBI gave reporters Tuesday after Sund and Contee blamed them for not giving an explicit or strong enough warning. Lawmakers hope that the many hearings and ongoing investigations into the matter will result in tangible policy changes to prevent similar attacks from happening again.
While it is currently unclear what that will look like, many leaders have emphasized the need for a broad rethinking of how the U.S. addresses domestic extremist threats at every level.
“There’s no question in my mind that there was a failure to take this threat more seriously, despite widespread social media content and public reporting that indicated violence was extremely likely,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mi.) told reporters Tuesday.
“The federal government must start taking these online threats seriously to ensure they don’t cross into the real-world violence.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Illinois Rep. Files Bill To Ban Video Games Like “Grand Theft Auto” Amid Carjacking Spikes
- Illinois State Rep. Marcus Evans (D) has proposed a bill that would crack down on certain video games in hopes of reducing a dramatic uptick in Chicago carjackings.
- Illinois law currently bans people from selling “violent video games” to minors; however, Evans’ bill seeks to ban the sale of “violent video games” to anyone in the state.
- Among other language, Evans is seeking to expand the state definition of “serious physical harm” related to video games so that it includes “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present inside the vehicle when the theft begins.”
- A number of gamers have criticized the bill, calling it a misguided approach for reducing violence in the state.
“Grand Theft Auto” Bill
Illinois State Representative Marcus Evans (D) has filed a bill that, if passed, would ban the sale of violent video games to anyone in the state.
While the bill does address the frequent debate around whether gun violence in video games inspires real-world violence, Evans is actually filing the bill primarily in response to a series of carjackings in Chicago. In fact, the bill was largely conceived with the game “Grand Theft Auto” in mind.
“‘Grand Theft Auto’ and other violent video games are getting in the minds of our young people and perpetuating the normalcy of carjacking,” Evans said. “Carjacking is not normal and carjacking must stop.”
According to the Chicago-Sun Times, Chicago saw 1,400 carjackings in 2020 — double that of what it saw in 2019. That’s now continued into this year, with 241 carjackings already reported in the city as of Monday. Earlier this week, police charged two boys, ages 13 and 14, with stealing a man’s car after holding him at gunpoint.
The latest addition to the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise was released in 2013. Notably, Chicago carjacking rates in 2013, 2014, and 2015 were the lowest of the previous decade.
The bill Evans has filed would amend a current Illinois law that restricts the sale of “violent video games” to minors.
As part of his amendment to include all age groups, Evans wants to update the definition of “violent video game” under state law to include games that “perpetuate human-on-human violence in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical or psychological harm to another human or an animal.”
Evans also wants to update the definition of “serious physical harm” related to video games so that it would include “psychological harm and child abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, domestic violence, violence against women, or motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present inside the vehicle when the theft begins.”
Gamers Say Evans’ Argument Is Misplaced
Among gamers, Evans’ bill has reignited conversations around video games and violence.
“Carjackings have happened before games and Marcus Evans thinks today that it’s the fault of video games like GTA?” one person tweeted. “I never had any need for committing crimes playing games my whole life.”