Fauci calls May 1 ‘a bit overly optimistic’ as Trump prepares to name council on reopening country
Trump claims he has 'total authority' in setting the terms of reopening states.
ABC News – President Donald Trump has called it both an “opening up the country council” and “a number of committees” but whatever the name, he is poised Tuesday to announce a teleconference-based task force of “the greatest minds” he’s said will advise him on how to open up parts of the country as early as May 1, when the current White House social distancing guidelines are set to expire.
He said he hoped to have a decision in “the next few days” and even hoped to reopen the country “ahead of schedule.”
“We will soon finalize new and very important guidelines to give governors the information they need to start safely opening their states,” Trump said at Monday’s White House briefing, just days after he called reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic “the biggest decision” of his life.
Asked about the economic task force, the president said, “We’re actually calling it a number of committees with the most prominent people in the country — the most successful people in the various fields.” He suggested there will be various committees such as transportation, religion and manufacturing and that he will be taking input from them to form new guidelines.
“They already know what I want,” Trump said. “I don’t have to give them instructions. These are very sophisticated people. These are the best people in their fields. I don’t have to say, ‘Gee, we just met and we will meet in two weeks and here is’ — I said, here is what I want. We have already told them.”
The official announcement of the group, reportedly focused on getting Americans back to work, is set to come as Trump falsely claims the president’s “authority is total” — and just after seven governors in the Northeast and three on the West Coast announced plans to band together in regional, coordinated efforts to explore gradually lifting restrictions and reopening their economies as neighbors.
The governors’ coalitions do not appear to be coordinated with the Trump administration — potentially setting up a battle between federal and state powers — as the president continues to aggressively tout his presidential powers and fight off any criticism of the federal government’s response — even using a campaign-style video as a visual aid Monday to praise his own handling of the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has suggested that a “rolling reentry” could be possible but cautioned Tuesday that May 1 is “a bit overly optimistic” without widespread testing and contract tracing in place.
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- Trump is scheduled to meet with recovered COVID-19 patients at 11:30 a.m., later to announce second ‘council’ or ‘committee’ on reopening country
- Trump lashes out at reporting that his administration dismissed virus concerns despite early warnings, plays campaign-style video to defend handling
- Trump says a president’s ‘authority is total’ and governors ‘know that’ as some governors form coalitions to determine reopening their states’ economies
- Fauci clarifies Sunday show comments, Trump calls him a ‘wonderful guy’ after retweeting hashtag that called for him to be fired
- A White House coronavirus task force briefing is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Fauci says ‘we’re not there yet’ on testing procedures needed to reopen country, calls May 1 date ‘a bit overly optimistic’ for many areas of country
In an interview with the Associated Press, Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged Tuesday the country does not yet have the critical testing and contact tracing procedures needed to safely begin reopening the nation’s economy, as the White House prepares to announce a council to do just that — and “ahead of schedule,” according to the president.
“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci told The AP.
He called the possibility of opening businesses by May 1 “a bit overly optimistic” for many areas of the country and repeated his suggestion that any easing off the social distancing guidelines should happen on a “rolling” basis.
Fauci also said the White House briefings can be “really draining” and signaled that his time might be better spent directing government research.
“If I had been able to just make a few comments and then go to work, that would have really been much better,” he said. “It isn’t the idea of being there and answering questions, which I really think is important for the American public. It’s the amount of time.”
It’s not uncommon for the president’s briefings to last more than two hours.
Senator looks to protect Fauci with legislation that echoes Mueller protection bills
Echoing legislation that a bipartisan group of senators authored to protect special counsel Robert Mueller during the Russia investigation, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is looking to shield Fauci from being fired by President Trump for anything other than “malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity.”
“We cannot allow Donald Trump to silence Dr. Fauci or any other government scientists,” Markey said in a statement. “This legislation will close the hole in the law that currently allows the President to fire a National Institutes of Health Director such as Dr. Fauci for any reason. Educating the public about the science and the facts that will save lives is not, and should never be, a firing offense.”
The bill comes one day after the White House pushed back at new speculation that Fauci’s fate was at risk, trying to tamp down questions raised after Trump himself he retweeted a tweet that included the hashtag “#FireFauci.”
When senators proposed similar legislation to protect Mueller, it surfaced significant constitutional concerns, including separation of powers, so it’s unclear if this would get bipartisan support.
–ABC News’ Trish Turner
Trump continues to assert powers over states, tweets that Cuomo reliant on him after governor forms Northeast coalition
After the president claimed his has “total authority” to set the terms of a nationwide reopening, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told CNN this morning: “If he ordered me to reopen, in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it.”
Hours later, Trump went on Twitter to say that New York has been reliant on him in responding to the coronavirus in the nation’s hardest-hit state, but that “now he seems to want Independence!”
“That won’t happen!” Trump added.
Trump also tweeted this morning about one his “all-time favorite movies,” the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” appearing to issue a metaphorical warning to the nation’s governors to follow in line.
“The Constitution does not go out the window in an emergency,” said Cuomo, in another phone interview with CNN after the president’s remarks Monday. “We don’t have a king. We have an elected president.”
Even members of Trump’s own party have acknowledged the president does not have “total authority,” as he suggested.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, House GOP Conference Chair, pointed to rights reserved to states by quoting the Constitution on Monday night, and saying “the federal government does not have absolute power.”
The federal government does not have absolute power.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” United States Constitution, Amendment X
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) April 13, 2020