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Combative Trump claims unconstitutional presidential powers in raucous coronavirus press briefing

Combative Trump claims unconstitutional presidential powers in raucous coronavirus press briefing

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After an Easter weekend break, Donald Trump’s coronavirus press briefings resumed this afternoon with a combative and often unhinged session that had the president loudly arguing with and insulting reporters, declaring that he possessed powers as president unsupported by anything in the Constitution, and defending his presidency against charges of a delayed and incompetent response to the pandemic.

Anyone looking for actual information about the federal government’s progress in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, had to wait for Trump to first call Dr. Anthony Fauci to the podium at a much earlier point in the press briefing than he is typically asked to address the assembled reporters to offer a more nuanced version of his weekend comments that seemed to imply that more lives could have been saved if the president had ordered mitigation efforts earlier.

Dr. Fauci’s future on the administration’s task force was called into question yesterday when the president retweeted a post from a right-wing supporter that included the hashtag #FireFauci.

Fauci carefully clarified his remarks as an answer to a hypothetical question rather than a criticism of the president and did his best to undo any political damage he may have unleashed in his CNN interview yesterday.

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After Dr. Fauci’s public apologia, Trump went into full defensive mode, attacking the media for questioning his actions in dealing with the pandemic and playing a White House-edited montage of conservative political commentators singing Trump’s praises for his handling of the crisis in what amounted to a free campaign ad broadcast on every network carrying the press conference live.

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Both CNN and MSNBC reportedly cut away from the press conference once it was apparent that the president was up to his old media manipulation tricks again by trying to use the occasion for a gratis propaganda fest.

After his propaganda video was done, the president then went on a long, rambling, and misinformation-filled rant attacking his presumed Democratic opponent Joe Biden and refuting reports from both state governors and medical personnel on the frontlines about continued shortages of ventilators, personal protective gear, and testing kits.

As CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale pointed out even Republican governors are contradicting the president on his insistence that “Everything we did was right.”

Increasingly irate as reporters peppered him with questions contradicting his rosy portrait of his administration’s performance, Trump treated the podium like a campaign debate stage, insulting reporters who asked questions he didn’t like and arguing and talking over them as they tried to ask follow up questions and elicit answers to their actual questions rather than simply accepting his repeated insistences that he had done everything perfectly.

Trump’s exchange with CBS reporter Paula Reid grew particularly heated as she pressed the president specifically on what the administration did during the entire month of February to prepare for the pandemic, calling her “fake” while refusing to actually answer her question.

Perhaps even more frightening than Trump’s bellicose and defensive posture towards a skeptical press were his imperial declarations of presidential power that were nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

Trump’s mistaken notion of the powers of the office that he holds reveals an authoritarian grasping that should send shivers down the spines of every American citizen who values our tripartite system of democracy, with power equally divided among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to prevent the tyranny of an aspiring monarch as our founding fathers wisely constructed it in the Constitution.

What is potentially even more frightening than Trump’s attempted grab of powers to which he is not entitled is the context in which he wants to use those powers — to overrule state governors who may not agree with his demands to lift social distancing and stay-at-home orders so that the American economy can be restarted— along with any hope he has for reelection — before it is medically safe to so without causing a resurgence of viral infections in the absence of an effective vaccine against the coronavirus.

While the arguments concerning federalism and state’s rights have been contentious issues since the beginnings of our nation, Trump is claiming powers that no president before him has had the audacity to assert — powers that the 10th Amendment of the Consitution would seem to clearly refute that he has the ability to allege that he possesses.

“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,” the amendment states succinctly.

While Trump’s argumentative dissembling and blatant campaigning during these press briefings — supposedly dedicated to the federal government’s pandemic response — are embarrassing, damaging, and horrific, his attempts to leverage the emergency for an unconstitutional power grab is downright dangerous.

If he isn’t challenged and stopped — an act that would require a sizeable number of Republicans in the Senate to come to their senses and oppose Trump’s posturing — America as we know it may not survive until the November elections.

Fans of Game of Thrones all know that the Mad King does not sit too long upon the throne.

The more Trump acts like one, the quicker he may find himself in a similar situation.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Original reporting by Daniel Dale at CNN.

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