President Trump on Monday falsely claimed the authority to overrule governors and allow businesses to open in defiance of the lockdown orders that state governments have imposed to contain the Wuhan coronavirus.
“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.”
Trump continued, “It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”
While the federal government has issued guidelines for social distancing and other mitigation techniques to “slow the spread” of coronavirus, it has not issued any directives to close businesses. The federal government does not have the authority to implement a “national lockdown” featuring business closures and mandatory social-distancing efforts, which measures are instead left to be implemented by individual states.
“A national lockdown, I think, is pretty far out of bounds for the president,” Keith Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell professor of politics at Princeton University, told CBS in an April 6 interview. Whittington said that while the president does have a certain amount of authority to enact international travel restrictions, as well as to restrict inter-state travel, any attempt to expand quarantine measures from one state to another would rest on shaky legal grounds.
At any rate, state governors who have imposed “shelter-in-place” orders and other measures hold the primary authority to lift those measures when they see fit.
Trump has sought to reopen the economy as soon as possible, although it’s unclear how much the spread of coronavirus will prevent businesses from operating even with a reduced number of cases in the U.S.