WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he has complete authority to reopen the country for business after the devastating effects of the coronavirus, calling when and how to do so the "toughest" decision of his presidency even as governors and legal scholars contend that he has no such power.
"I'm going to put it very simply: the president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The president of the United States calls the shots," Trump said Monday evening, pressed on his claim during a news briefing at the White House.
He asserted that "numerous provisions" of the U.S. Constitution give him the power to potentially overrule governors who have issued stay-at-home orders for their states, telling one reporter that he would provide a "legal brief" to prove it.
He continued: "When somebody’s the president of the U.S., the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s gotta be."
But experts — and the Constitution — say Trump is wrong. The authority to require businesses to close in a public health crisis is what is a known as a "police power," and it is reserved by the Constitution to the states, not to the federal government.
Only the states can give shutdown orders, and only the states can lift them, legal scholars say. Many governors agree.