Trump now says he'll be 'authorizing' governors to reopen their states at the 'most appropriate' time

(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Trump's incorrect assertion Monday that he has "total" authority over when states lift or relax coronavirus mitigation rules "caught his aides off guard and prompted them to study whether Trump would have such authority in a time of emergency like the ongoing pandemic," The Washington Post reports. Trump continued pushing the idea Tuesday, suggesting that disobeying his orders to reopen the economy would be akin to "mutiny."

Governors from both parties noted pointedly on Tuesday that they have and will retain the authority to lift social distancing rules they put in place. By his press conference Tuesday night, Trump largely reversed course.

"I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly and I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening, and a very powerful reopening plan, of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate," Trump said. "The day will be very close," and in some states "maybe even before the date of May 1." He added that "the governors will be very, very respectful of the presidency," but they "are responsible, they have to take charge, they have to do a great job," or he might "close 'em up and start all over again."

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"Trump outlined a vision in which workers would be tested, perhaps on a weekly basis, and governors would test travelers arriving at their states' borders," The Associated Press reports. "But the U.S. is nowhere near having that kind of infrastructure." Atypically, Trump ended the press conference without letting federal health officials field questions.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump appeared to threaten to withhold federal assistance from states that don't obey him, oddly placing himself in the role of Capt. William Bligh.

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One official told the Post that "Trump is frustrated that the governors are getting so much credit and no blame while he gets all the blame and none of the credit," specifically complaining about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Trump tweeted Tuesday that Cuomo has been "begging" for supplies but "now he seems to want Independence! That won't happen!"

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.