Trump says he has 'ultimate authority' to re-open states from virus shutdown

Repeatedly ridiculing the news media, President Donald Trump used a Coronavirus briefing at the White House on Monday to defend his work on the virus outbreak, blasting the press, Democrats, and anyone else who criticized his decisions, and saying he - and not the nation's Governors - has the 'ultimate authority' on re-opening states shut down by the virus.

"When somebody is the President of the United States the authority is total," Mr. Trump said when asked about Governors putting together their own re-opening plans. "And that's the way it's got to be, and the Governors know that."

"The President of the United States calls the shots," President Trump added.

"They can't do anything without the approval of the President of the United States," Mr. Trump said of the Governors.

"I have the ultimate authority," he said.

It was a major switch for the President, who just on Sunday had tweeted that the Governors were responsible for most everything involved in the Coronavirus response.

Pressed to explain his view of such broad Constitutional powers, the President did not offer any specific legal arguments, as he strongly defended his Coronavirus work.

"Everything we did was right," Mr. Trump said.

Democrats grabbed onto one of the more confrontational moments from the Monday briefing, where CBS White House Correspondent Paula Reid repeatedly pressed President Trump to detail what his administration did in February about the Coronavirus.

"He doesn't come close to answering the question," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). "Because the answer to the question is 'Nothing.'”

Mr. Trump spent much of the first 35 minutes of the briefing lashing out at the press - and more specifically the New York Times - over recent news coverage of the Coronavirus response.

At one point, the White House played several minutes of video of early news coverage of the Coronavirus, as the President argued the news media had ignored the threat from the virus.

“THE MEDIA MINIMIZED THE RISK FROM THE START,” the video proclaimed at one point.

Jamie Dupree

Jamie Dupree, CMG Washington News Bureau

Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau