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Cuomo Pulls Away From Fight With Trump

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking April 14, 2020.
Governor Andrew Cuomo's office
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking April 14, 2020.

Governor Andrew Cuomo tried to tamp down an escalating war of words with President Donald Trump, during the governor’s daily briefing on COVID-19’s impact on New York state. The Democratic governor says Trump is “spoiling for a fight,” but Cuomo says he does not plan to further engage.

On Monday, New York joined with six other Northeastern states to develop a coordinated plan to reopen the economy, when it is safe to do so. Three west coast states, California, Washington and Oregon, formed a similar pact.

President Trump, in his daily briefing on the coronavirus on Monday evening, claimed, falsely  that he has sole authority to reopen businesses and schools in the states, and that he might do so.

“The federal government has absolute power,” Trump said. “As to whether or not I’ll use that power, we’ll see.”

Cuomo responded on several morning news shows Tuesday, saying the president would be creating a “constitutional crisis” if he tried to order that businesses and schools in New York should reopen, before the governor and his health experts believe it is safe to do so.

“He basically declared himself ‘King Trump’,” Cuomo said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Cuomo compared the resident’s briefings to a comedy skit, and said they are “infuriating” and “ignorant” and that there is “no value” in watching them.

Trump lashed out on Twitter, saying Cuomo had been “begging” for more hospital beds and ventilators, when it was the state’s responsibility to get those items. And the president compared Democratic governors to mutineers, saying one of his favorite movies is “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

Cuomo, in his daily briefing later on Tuesday, pulled back from the dispute.

“The president is clearly spoiling for a fight,” said Cuomo, who said he would not be drawn further into one.

“Sometimes it takes more strength, frankly, to walk away from a fight than engage it,” Cuomo said. “The president will have no fight with me. I will not engage it."

Governor Cuomo says his earlier remarks about Trump were about correcting the facts on the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution between the federal government and the states.

“The statement that he has total authority over the states and the nation cannot go uncorrected,” said Cuomo, who said it is “factually wrong.”

The governor in recent weeks has built a mostly positive relationship with the president, and the two have praised each other at times. Cuomo credits Trump for helping get field hospitals built in New York and providing the Navy ship the USNS Comfort. The governor says he has no plans right now to talk to the president.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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