Michigan Governor Refutes Trump's Claim of Total Authority, Says States Won't 'Open Via Twitter'

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has refuted President Donald Trump's recent assertion that he has absolute authority to force states to re-open schools and businesses shuttered by governors during the coronavirus epidemic.

Whitmer said that she would rely foremost on medical advisement when deciding how and when to ease social distancing measures in her state.

"The government's not going to be open via Twitter," the Michigan governor said in a radio interview with NPR's All Things Considered. "We're going to have to make decisions based on the best science, the best medical advice and what's in the best public health of the people of our individual states."

"We've had to act unilaterally at the state level, and we're probably the best ones to be able to make a decision when it's time to safely reengage our economies," she said, adding her hopes that other governors will do the same.

Trump criticized Whitmer near the end of March after she claimed that the federal government had delayed her state's request for medical equipment. Whitmer called the lack of cooperation from the government "really concerning."

"When the federal government told us that we needed to get [medical equipment] ourselves," Whitmer said, "we started procuring every item we could get our hands on. What I've gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan."

Trump responded to her claims during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. In the interview, Trump accused the governor of "not stepping up."

"I don't know if she knows what's going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn't get it done and we send her a lot," Trump said. "But Michigan is a very important state. I love the people of Michigan."

Gretchen Whitmer
Gretchen Whitmer, now the Michigan governor, speaks with a reporter after a Democrat Unity Rally at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel August 8, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Bill Pugliano/Getty

Trump has said he wants to see states re-open businesses by May 1. During Monday's White House coronavirus briefing he claimed he had the authority to force states to do so whether state governors wanted to or not.

"The president of the United States calls the shots. [The states] can't do anything without the approval of the president of the United States," Trump said. He has since said he is working with state governors to create individual timelines for the re-opening their schools and businesses.

The U.S. Constitution denies the president the authority to force governors to re-open their states. Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated this fact in his Monday interview with MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes.

"I don't know why the president said [he has absolute authority]," Cuomo said. "I don't know why he would take us down this path... It's not legal. It's a total abrogation of the Constitution—10th Amendment specifically says power to the states."

"The constitution says we don't have a king," Cuomo continued. "To say 'I have total authority over the country because I'm the president, it's absolute,' that is a king. We didn't have a king. We didn't have King George Washington, we had President George Washington."

New Hampshire's Republican Governor and Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan have both also publicly disagreed with the president's assertion.

Nevertheless, several Democratic governors from the northeastern and western coastal states have said they're working together to plan ways to re-open their states without risking more coronavirus outbreaks.