President Trump’s bold claims that he has the ultimate power to order states to restart their economies seemed certain to provoke his critics.
What was more surprising was the even larger backlash Trump’s attitude drew from the right, including from voices normally never cross the president.
Initially, there were the Republican politicians who rebuffed Trump’s claims.
“How & when to modify physical distancing orders should & will be made by Governors,” Senator Marco Rubio wrote Tuesday morning in a tweet that didn’t mention Trump directly but unmistakably rejected his stance. “Federal guidelines … will be very influential. But the Constitution & common sense dictates these decisions be made at the state level.“
Then, an important Trump loyalist in the House, Representative Liz Cheney, threw Trump’s own words back at him.
“The federal government does not have absolute power,” she wrote on Twitter, before quoting the 10th Amendment’s promise that powers not apportioned in the Constitution “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Even staunch proponents of executive power, like former George W. Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, who said Trump had gotten out too far over his skis.
“The federal government does not have that power. The Constitution’s grant of limited, enumerated powers to the national government does not include the right to regulate either public health or all business in the land,” Yoo, now a University of California at Berkeley law professor, wrote bluntly in National Review. “Our federal system reserves the leading role over public health to state governors. States possess the ‘police power’ to regulate virtually all activity within their borders.”
As Trump tried to dismiss reporters’ doubts Monday about his claims, the president insisted there were “numerous provisions” of law backing up his assertions.
“We’ll give you a legal brief if you want,” Trump said. No such legal justification emerged Tuesday.