NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Responds to Trump's Claim of Absolute Authority: 'We Don't Have a King'

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has rejected President Donald Trump's claim of total authority over states' decisions to re-open businesses shuttered amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Trump, who has voiced a desire to see states re-open businesses by May 1, said during Monday's White House coronavirus briefing, "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."

However, when MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes asked Cuomo whether that statement was true, Cuomo said, "No, that is not true. I don't know why the president said it. 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."

When reporters at Monday's briefings asked about which constitutional provisions give Trump executive power to override state governors, Trump replied, "Numerous provisions," but didn't name any.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during his daily news conference amid the coronavirus outbreak on March 20, 2020 in New York City. Cuomo ordered nonessential businesses to keep 100% of their workforce at home in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bennett Raglin/Getty

"The president has taken a strange approach in many ways," Hayes said, "which is to say, lack of national guidelines for a while, allowing states to go. And then he sort of did a 180 and basically said, 'No no no, it's not really up to the states when to quote-unquote reopen,' which is itself unclear—it's not a ribbon-cutting, right?"

"The close-down was left to the governors to do individually state-by-state," Cuomo said. "We have a whole quilt of different close-down strategies because he left it to the governors."

When Hayes doubted that the president could in any way enforce his 'absolute authority' beyond mere messaging from the podium, Cuomo replied, "If he tried an edict from the White House that put the people of the state of New York in jeopardy violated what I thought was in their best interest from a public health point of view, we would just be off to a lawsuit.

"That's the only way this really horrendous situation could get worse," Cuomo continued, "is that if you now see a war between the federal government and the states. And why you would even go there, I have no idea."

New Hampshire's Republican Governor and Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan have both also disagreed with the president's assertion, saying that the decision to reopen businesses is based on the executive orders of state governors and not any presidential authority.