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NY Gov. Says Trump Is Not a King After President Says He Has “Total” Authority Over When to Reopen Economy

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  • “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)

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Restrictive Elections Bill Into Law

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  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a sweeping elections bill into law Thursday that critics say will significantly limit voting access.
  • Among other measures, the bill will impose new restrictions on ballot drop boxes, add barriers to mail-in voting, and limit who can hand out materials to voters at polling locations — a provision many believe will ban the distribution of food and water.
  • While Republicans claim the bill is necessary to provide election security and transparency, Democrats and voting rights advocates argue that it will suppress voters, particularly voters of color.
  • DeSantis also received widespread backlash from critics and the media for taking the unprecedented step of blocking all journalists from attending the signing ceremony for the law, which was broadcasted exclusively on Fox News.

Newest Voting Restrictions Law

Florida became the latest Republican-led state to impose new voting restrictions Thursday when Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a broad elections bill into law.

The new law contains many provisions similar to the dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at restricting voting access that have been proposed and approved in the months following the 2020 election.

Among other measures, the Florida law will:

  • Limit the use of drop boxes and impose new restrictions on where they can be placed.
  • Add more identification requirements for requesting absentee ballots.
  • Require voters to request absentee ballots for each election, rather than getting them automatically through a voting list.
  • Limit who can collect and drop off ballots.
  • Give more power to partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.
  • Expand a current rule that bans outside groups from engaging in actions that could influence voting within a 150-foot radius of a polling place, which voting rights experts say could be used to prohibit people from giving out food and water to voters waiting in line to vote.

On top of that, critics have also said the new law could result in longer lines for both early in-person and Election Day voting. Democrats and voting rights advocates have also argued that this is just a transparent attempt to suppress voters, and specifically voters of color.

Republicans, meanwhile, have claimed the new law is necessary to make elections more secure — claims that were reiterated by DeSantis during the signing ceremony.

“Me signing this bill says, ‘Florida, your vote counts,’” he said. “Your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency, and this is a great place for democracy.”

DeSantis Blocks Media From Bill Signing

In addition to backlash against the new law itself, many condemned DeSantis for speaking about transparency but then completely shutting the media out of the signing, which was broadcasted exclusively on Fox News.

Numerous individual reporters and outlets were blocked from accessing the event, including Jay O’Brien, a reporter for the local CBS affiliate, who tweeted that the station was supposed to film pool footage of the event to feed to affiliates nationwide.

“This isn’t a story about the press being locked out of an event,” O’Brien later added. “It’s about Floridians who had their eyes and ears in that room cut off. @GovRonDeSantis signed a law today that will impact ALL Floridians. And only some viewers were allowed to see it. That’s not normal.”

That disbelief was also echoed by other outlets, like The New York Times, which explained that “Giving exclusive access to a cable news network was unusual, if not unprecedented.” 

The Flordia law, which was immediately challenged by civil rights groups in federal court, comes just months after Georgia passed a similar, widely controverisal bill. 

Meanwhile in Texas, Republican leaders are ignoring the pleas of major corporations like Dell, Microsoft, and American Airlines by moving forward with legislation that would make the state one of the toughest to vote in throughout the entire country. That proposal, which has already been passed by the state Senate, could see a full state House vote as early as next week.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CBS News)

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Biden Administration To Reunite Four Migrant Families Separated Under Trump

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  • Four migrant families split up under former President Trump’s child separation policy will be reunited this week, Biden administration officials said Sunday.
  • More than 5,500 children were separated from their parents from 2017 to 2018. Around 1,000 families remained separated when Trump left office and over half had not been contacted by the administration.
  • Shortly after taking office in January, President Biden formed the Family Reunification Task Force, which has located at least 200 more parents. The families that will be reunited later this week mark the first that the task force has connected.
  • While immigration advocates applauded the move, they also criticized Biden’s team for not moving faster or pouring adequate resources into reunification efforts.

Four Migrant Families To Reunite

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Sunday that four migrant parents who were separated from their children and deported alone under former President Donald Trump’s controversial family separation policy will be allowed to return to the U.S. and reunite with their kids.

The “zero tolerance” policy, one of Trump’s most notorious actions on immigration, was formally enacted in April 2018 and ended just months later in June after a federal judge forced the administration to stop.

It was later revealed that the administration had actually been regularly separating families throughout much of 2017. According to government documents, over 5,500 children were separated from their parents in 2017 and 2018.

Most of those families were later reunited, but at least 1,000 parents remained separated because a parent had been deported. More than half of those parents — an estimated 645 — still had not been contacted by the time Trump left office.

President Joe Biden has said reuniting families would be a top priority as he begins undoing the complex network of immigration policies set by Trump. This latest move marks the first families that will be reunited through the Family Reunification Task Force, which Biden created shortly after taking office in January.

So far, that task force has managed to find around 200 of the 645 remaining parents and recently reported that it’s looking into 5,600 files from the first few months of the Trump administration that may have evidence of even more separations.

Immigration Advocates Call for More

While immigration advocates and lawyers applauded the move, they also criticized the slow rate of reunification. Some also accused the Biden administration of taking credit for the reunions despite doing very little to facilitate them.

“Despite what Secretary Mayorkas would have the public believe, DHS has done nothing to facilitate the return and reunification of these parents this week, other than to agree to allow them in,” said Carol Anne Donohoe, a managing attorney for the reunification project run by immigrant advocacy organization Al Otro Lado. 

“The only reason these mothers will be standing at the port of entry is because Al Otro Lado negotiated their travel visas with the Mexican government, paid for their airline tickets and arranged for reunification,” she added.

Many advocacy groups have also slammed the Biden administration for not doing enough to plan what happens next for these families. Some have urged them to provide permanent legal status to parents so they cannot be separated from their children again, as well as support services and potential financial compensation.

The parents arriving this week will be allowed to temporarily stay in the country under what’s called humanitarian parole, their long-term immigration status and what happens from here is largely up in the air.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (NBC News)

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Matt Gaetz’s “Wingman” Reportedly Said the Congressman Paid for Sex With a Minor

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  • The Daily Beast reported Thursday that it had obtained a letter written by Joel Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker and a close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), where he admitted that he and the congressman paid for sex with numerous young women, including a 17-year-old girl.
  • In the letter, Greenberg allegedly claimed that he and Gaetz believed the girl was 19 but ended contact in September 2017 after realizing she was a minor. Once she turned 18, he said both men re-established contact.
  • The Daily Beast also obtained alleged screenshots of messages where Greenberg offered to pay Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then-President Trump. Greenberg admitted he and Gaetz paid for sex with a minor in those messages as well.
  • In a statement, Stone confirmed that he had spoken to Greenberg about a possible pardon and said he had requested Greenberg’s letter but denied receiving compensation. Gaetz, who is currently under investigation for possible violations of sex trafficking laws, denied ever paying for sex or having sex with a minor.

Alleged Greenberg Letters

Joel Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker and a central figure in the ongoing federal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), admitted that both men paid for sex with multiple young women and a 17-year-old girl, according to a letter obtained by The Daily Beast Thursday.

Greenberg was indicted last summer on 33 counts, including sex trafficking a minor. The former Florida politician is an ally of Gaetz, who is currently the subject of a Justice Department investigation that is allegedly part of a broader probe into Greenberg.

The letter in question was reportedly written after Greenberg asked Roger Stone, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, to help him obtain a pardon from the then-president before he left office.

According to The Daily Beast, Greenberg had written multiple drafts of the letter at Stone’s request, including “two typed versions and an earlier handwritten one,” seen by the outlet. In at least one of the letters, Greenberg reportedly said both he and Gaetz had repeated interactions with a girl who was 17-years-old.

“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” he allegedly wrote of the girl.

“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

In the drafts, Greenberg purportedly stated that “all of the girls were in college or post college,” and he claimed that he and Gaetz had believed the minor was 19 at the time of their sexual relationships with her.

He said he learned she was underage in September of 2017 and contacted Gaetz, who he reportedly wrote was “equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.” After that Greenberg said, “there was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”

However, after she was legal, Greenberg contacted her again, according to The Daily Beast, which previously reported Gaetz had sent Greenberg $900 on Venmo asking him to “hit up” the same girl five months after she turned 18.

Messages Between Greenberg and Stone

The outlet also obtained a series of private messages between Greenberg and Stone starting in late 2020 that had been sent over the encrypted app Singal. Greenberg appears to have taken screenshots of a number of conversations, which are automatically deleted after a set period of time.

“If I get you $250k in Bitcoin would that help or is this not a financial matter,” Greenberg wrote to Stone in one of the screenshots published in the exposé.

“I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident,” Stone appears to have responded in a message The Daily Beast said was sent on Jan. 13. Just weeks before, Trump pardoned Stone himself for his 2019 conviction.

Source: The Daily Beast

The images also appear to show Greenberg describing his activities with Gaetz, who he repeatedly refers to as “MG” or “Matt.” In one exchange, Greenberg says that he has not spoken to Gaetz and implored Stone to help him reach out to the congressman. 

“He absolutely has to know that the sex charge they hit me with would be what they would hit him with,” he wrote, per the screenshot. 

The Daily Beast additionally detailed several other messages between the two men that it did not provide screenshots of. In one alleged interaction, the outlet claims that Greenberg said that federal law enforcement officials were pressuring him to cooperate with their investigation and that he fired his lawyers for urging him to do the same.

“My lawyers that I fired, know the whole story about MG’s involvement,” he purportedly wrote. “They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage. So naturally they think that is my golden ticket.”

However, according to the outlet, Stone said several times that Gaetz refused his request to help with the matter. Greenberg did not ultimately receive the pardon, though The Daily Beast stated that White House officials confirmed his name had made it on a list of possible candidates, a detail backed up messages seen by the outlet. 

“What I don’t understand is why [Gaetz] would not help me at all and actually told me not to help you which I tried to do anyway. In the end it would not have mattered,” Stone purportedly wrote after Trump had announced his final pardons.

Official Responses to Latest Allegations

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Stone confirmed that Greenberg had tried to hire him to help get a pardon, but denied that he asked for or received payment.

“I made no formal or informal effort in regard to a pardon for Mr. Greenberg,” Stone said. “I recall requesting a document explaining his prosecution The [sic] details of which I was unfamiliar with.”

“I never requested or received a penny from Mr. Greenberg,” he continued. “I recall him offering to retain me and I declined.” 

Stone also acknowledged that there may be “copies of correspondence” between him and Greenberg, but he questioned whether they were in full context.

“Sounds to me like you have been presented some kind of cut and paste record,” he said, warning the outlet to “be very careful” and threatening legal action if it published “anything that is false or defamatory.”

Greenberg’s lawyer declined to comment on the story. Gaetz’s office did not respond to the request to comment, but Logan Circle Group, an outside PR firm hired by the Congressman, denied the accusations in a statement.

“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult,” the firm said. “We are now one month after your outlet and others first reported such lies, and no one has gone on record to directly accuse him of either.”

See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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