Coronavirus government response updates: Trump to name council on reopening country as governors make separate plans

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has called it both an “opening up the country council” and “a number of committees” but whatever the name, he is poised Tuesday to announce a teleconference-based task force of “the greatest minds” he’s said will advise him on how to open up parts of the country as early as May 1, when the current White House social distancing guidelines are set to expire.

He said he hoped to have a decision in “the next few days” and even hoped to reopen the country “ahead of schedule.”

“We will soon finalize new and very important guidelines to give governors the information they need to start safely opening their states,” Trump said at Monday’s White House briefing, just days after he called reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic “the biggest decision” of his life.

Asked about the economic task force, the president said, “We’re actually calling it a number of committees with the most prominent people in the country — the most successful people in the various fields.” He suggested there will be various committees such as transportation, religion and manufacturing and that he will be taking input from them to form new guidelines.

“They already know what I want,” Trump said. “I don’t have to give them instructions. These are very sophisticated people. These are the best people in their fields. I don’t have to say, ‘Gee, we just met and we will meet in two weeks and here is’ — I said, here is what I want. We have already told them.”

The official announcement of the group, reportedly focused on getting Americans back to work, is set to come as Trump falsely claims the president’s “authority is total” — and just after six governors in the Northeast and three on the West Coast announced plans to band together in regional, coordinated efforts to explore gradually lifting restrictions and reopening their economies as neighbors.

The governors’ coalitions do not appear to be coordinated with the Trump administration — potentially setting up a battle between federal and states rights — as the president continues to aggressively tout his presidential powers and fight off any criticism of the federal government’s response — even using a campaign-style video as a visual aid Monday to praise his own handling of the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has suggested that a “rolling reentry” could be possible as early as next month, provided health authorities can identify and isolate people with COVID-19 through widespread testing — but many officials admit the U.S. is not there yet.

Senator looks to protect Fauci with legislation that echoes Mueller protection bills

Echoing legislation that a bipartisan group of senators authored to protect special counsel Robert Mueller during the Russia investigation, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is looking to shield Fauci from being fired by President Trump for anything other than “malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity.”

“We cannot allow Donald Trump to silence Dr. Fauci or any other government scientists,” Markey said in a statement. “This legislation will close the hole in the law that currently allows the President to fire a National Institutes of Health Director such as Dr. Fauci for any reason. Educating the public about the science and the facts that will save lives is not, and should never be, a firing offense.”

The bill comes one day after the White House pushed back at new speculation that Fauci’s fate was at risk, trying to tamp down questions raised after Trump himself he retweeted a tweet that included the hashtag “#FireFauci.”

When senators proposed similar legislation to protect Mueller, it surfaced significant constitutional concerns, including separation of powers, so it’s unclear if this would get bipartisan support.

Trump continues to assert powers over states, tweets that Cuomo reliant on him after governor forms Northeast coalition

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told CNN this morning, speaking on President Trump: “If he ordered me to reopen, in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it.”

Hours later, the president went on Twitter to say that New York has been reliant on him in responding to the coronavirus in the nation’s hardest-hit state, but that “now he seems to want Independence!”

“That won’t happen!” Trump added.

Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything, most of which should have been the state’s responsibility, such as new hospitals, beds, ventilators, etc. I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2020

After the president’s remarks at Monday’s briefing, Cuomo said in another phone interview with CNN that if the president presented a plan that was irresponsible, he “would oppose it legally.”

“The Constitution does not go out the window in an emergency,” Cuomo said. “We don’t have a king. We have an elected president.”

Even members of Trump’s own party have acknowledged the president does not have “total authority,” as he suggested.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, House GOP Conference Chair, even pointed to rights reserved to states by quoting the Constitution on Monday night, and saying “the federal government does not have absolute power.”

The federal government does not have absolute power.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” United States Constitution, Amendment X

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) April 13, 2020

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