WASHINGTON — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Tuesday that President Donald Trump should not try to reopen the state against his wishes, saying it would create "a constitutional crisis like you haven't seen in decades" and could result in a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases.
"The only ways this situation gets worse is if the president creates a constitutional crisis," Cuomo said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"If he says to me, 'I declare it open,' and that is a public health risk or it's reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it," he said. "And then we will have a constitutional crisis like you haven't seen in decades, where states tell the federal government, 'We're not going to follow your order.' It would be terrible for this country. It would be terrible for this president."
During a lengthy White House coronavirus task force press briefing Monday, the president said, incorrectly, that ultimately he has the power to make decisions that apply to each state.
"When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be — it's total," Trump said. "And the governors know that."
Cuomo said that Trump's comments were "not a bending of the Constitution" but "it was a breaking of the Constitution."
Trump fired back at Cuomo later in the morning, saying the governor "seems to want Independence! That won't happen!"
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When asked in an earlier interview on NBC's "TODAY" show Tuesday what would happen if Trump tried to overrule Cuomo, the governor said, "If he pushed it to that absurd point, then we would have a problem."
"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 we don't reopen correctly, you will see those virus numbers go up again, and more people will die," Cuomo said.
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Cuomo said Trump’s statement was "wrong," according to the Constitution. The authority to require businesses to close in a public health crisis is a "police power," and it is reserved by the Constitution for the states, not the federal government, experts told NBC News.
"We don't have a king — we have a president, and that was a big decision," Cuomo said. "We ran away from having a king, and George Washington was president, not King Washington so the president doesn't have total authority. The Constitution is there, the 10th Amendment is there. ... It's very clear states have power by the 10th amendment."
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The coronavirus outbreak is "not over," Cuomo said, because while New York is experiencing a plateau in the rate of cases, or a flattening of the increase, it’s not yet seeing a decline. The governor reiterated that testing will be key in the reopening of the economy, which he said should be gradual.
Cuomo and some other Northeast governors announced Monday that they will coordinate a reopening of their states with one another to prevent a rapid increase in cases again.
Trump has been eyeing reopening the economy at the beginning of May, though at Monday's press briefing, he refused to say whether he plans to do so.