- “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)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.