Bret Baier: Conservatives heads ‘would’ve exploded’ if Obama said he had ‘total’ authority


APRIL 14, 2020

Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Tuesday called out the “hypocrisy” of President Trump’s claim the day before that he has “total” authority when it comes to reopening the nation’s economy, saying that conservative heads would have “exploded” had former President Obama said the same thing. 

Trump, speaking during a White House briefing on Monday, said that his “authority is total” and that he could override stay-at-home orders that governors around the nation have issued to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The comments prompted pushback from legal experts, members of Congress and state officials, who point out that the Constitution does not grant a president absolute power.

Baier said on Fox News that the “Constitution is pretty clear” and pointed to scholars who have noted that governors and local authorities have ultimate authority over when their businesses and schools can reopen.

“I think that there’s hypocrisy here, in that one, if President Obama had said those words, that the authority is total with the presidency, conservatives’ heads would’ve exploded across the board,” he said.

But Baier also took issue with the framing of the dispute, arguing that just one week ago there were mounting questions over whether the Trump administration would issue a nationwide stay-at-home order.

“A week ago there was a lot of coverage saying, why isn’t there a national stay-at-home order. … But now it’s, ‘no he can’t open up [the economy],” Baier said.

“The bottom line is that the president can really influence these governors and work with them,” he added. “But as far as the top-down order, by the Constitution, you can’t do that.”

Trump late last week began laying the ground work for the U.S. to reopen portions of its economy, arguing that the country “was meant to be open and vibrant and great.”

On Monday, he repeatedly claimed that his decisions on the matter would override states’ authority, though legal experts have largely said that the president does not have the power to reverse local quarantine measures.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Tuesday warned Trump against relaxing social-distancing requirements and said there’d be a “problem” if the president tried to override the governor’s plans.

“Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything, most of which should have been the state’s responsibility, such as new hospitals, beds, ventilators, etc. I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence!” Trump tweeted shortly after Cuomo made the comments. “That won’t happen!”

The U.S. had reported nearly 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 25,000 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. Many states appear to have passed the peak of the outbreak, though health officials insist that the U.S. needs more comprehensive testing and contact-tracing before beginning to reopen parts of the economy.