As Trump Announces ‘Total Authority,’ Cuomo Fires Back: ‘You Don't Become King’ in an Emergency

Officials are building a roadmap to normalcy at the state level — much to President Donald Trump‘s chagrin.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during his daily briefing on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that the “worst” of the outbreak might be through in his state.

With some encouraging signs that the virus’ havoc is starting to slow in parts of the country, though major health concerns remain, multiple governors this week also announced they would next work together to solve a key problem in the outbreak: When and how quickly schools, businesses and public gatherings can resume normally.

“I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart, and I believe we can start on the path to normalcy,” Cuomo said, adding: “Do not reverse the progress we have made in our zeal to reopen. That’s our challenge going forward.”

Several governors on both coasts struck up alliances to coordinate reopening strategies at the local level. On the West Coast, California, Oregon and Washington have reached an agreement, and on the East Coast, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island teamed with New York.

“We should start looking forward to reopening, but reopening with a plan and a smart plan,” Cuomo, 62, said Monday. “Because if you do it wrong, it can backfire, and we’ve seen that in other places on the globe.”

Speaking about the West Coast’s efforts toward reopening public life, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference that the initiative will be “guided by data.”

“We will be driven by facts. We will be driven by evidence. We will be driven by science. We will be driven by our public health advisers, and we will be driven by the collaborative spirit that defines the best of us at this incredibly important moment,” he said.

Trump, however, seemingly took issue with being left out of a process he wrongly insisted was fully in his control.

Disregarding the basic split between state and federal authority, he wrote Monday on Twitter that reopening was “the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”

“The Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue,” Trump continued. “A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”

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In an increasingly irritable White House press briefing later on Monday, Trump reiterated his belief in his sweeping presidential power.

“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he said, “and that’s the way it’s got to be.”

When pressed by a reporter who asked “but who told you the president has total authority?” Trump stuck his finger up and retorted “enough.”

During an appearance on CNN on Monday, Cuomo fired back at Trump, saying, “You don’t become king because there’s a national emergency.”

“The tough decisions were the closing down of the economy. The sort of reopening is more of an artful, science-based process,” said Cuomo. “But the closing down — which is where the President could have exercised this theory of total control — he didn’t do it. He left it all to the states and we had this whole hodgepodge of actions over a period of time.”

He added: “I think, frankly, if we had a clearer national direction earlier on, we probably would have had a more orderly shutdown.”

According to data compiled by The New York Times, there have been 580,878 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23,607 deaths in the U.S., as of April 14.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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