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‘King Trump’: Critics reject president’s ‘total’ power claim in coronavirus fight

Coronavirus outbreak: Trump says president’s authority is ‘total’ to reopen country
Coronavirus outbreak: Trump says president's authority is ‘total' to reopen country

The United States was founded in part to escape the tyranny of a king, and state governors will not be bullied into that model of government because of the coronavirus threat.

That was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s message to U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, in response to the POTUS’ claim that he can forcibly end state-ordered lockdowns meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We don’t have a king in this country. We didn’t want a king, so we have a Constitution and we elect a president,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing on Tuesday, in response to Trump’s remarks on Monday that he has the “absolute” power to order states back to work.

Cuomo is the Democratic governor of the hardest-hit state in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. He’s also one of several state governors who say they’ll work in tandem to decide when their lockdowns should end, regardless of how loudly Trump tells them to re-open their economies.

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READ MORE: Several states band together while eyeing plans to re-open

The president railed against these multi-state pacts in his Monday news briefing, amid his latest effort to deflect all blame for the public health and economic disaster onto Democratic opponents and unsympathetic media outlets.

“When somebody is president of the United States, your authority is total,” he said, contrary to what the U.S. Constitution says.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trump says president’s authority is ‘total’ to reopen country
Coronavirus outbreak: Trump says president’s authority is ‘total’ to reopen country

“That is not an accurate statement,” Cuomo said in response to Trump on Tuesday. He cited the U.S. Constitution, which cedes all powers that it doesn’t mention to the various states within the union. “There are laws and there are facts, even in this wild political environment,” he said.

Cuomo also dismissed a flurry of Trump tweets sent out on Tuesday morning in which he compared himself to Captain Bligh in the film Mutiny on the Bounty. The tweets suggested the governors were committing mutiny against him.

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“The president is clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue,” Cuomo said. “The president will have no fight with me. I will not engage.”

READ MORE: Trudeau cringes at his own ‘speaking moistly’ tip for coronavirus masks

Cuomo laid it out even more clearly in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday. “We didn’t have King George Washington, and we don’t have King Trump. We have President Trump.”

Many online users bristled at the notion of an all-powerful head of state telling them what to do — especially if that person is named Donald Trump.

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“The USA won’t give you what’s needed to keep your people safe unless you bend the knee to The King,” actor Morgan Freeman tweeted on Tuesday, using the hashtag #KingTrump. “Let’s dethrone this prick.”

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Several people pointed out a contradiction in the way Trump has talked about his leadership, considering that he took no responsibility for the country’s testing crisis last month.

“I don’t take any responsibility at all,” he said back on March 13, when asked why the U.S. was slow to ramp up testing for COVID-19.

“If your authority is total, then your responsibility is total,” one Twitter user wrote.

Coronavirus outbreak: ‘I don’t take responsibility at all’ Trump says on lag in COVID-19 testing
Coronavirus outbreak: ‘I don’t take responsibility at all’ Trump says on lag in COVID-19 testing

The U.S. has been in lockdown mode along with the rest of the world for nearly a month, after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. The country has recorded nearly 583,000 infections and over 24,000 deaths as of Tuesday, including more than 10,000 deaths in the hardest-hit state of New York.

READ MORE: ‘We’re not there yet’: Fauci says U.S. doesn’t have tools to reopen economy

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Sweeping lockdowns have helped curb the spread of the virus while doing major damage to the economy. President Trump has openly talked in recent weeks about ending the lockdowns to save the economy, which he has often tied to his own re-election chances for November.

The economic impact of the virus has already tipped the world into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s according to the International Monetary Fund.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters