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Trump says he rules America, not the governors

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US President stokes fight with governors when he says only he has the power to ease lockdown measures in the country

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump defended his response to the coronavirus outbreak on Monday and said he did not intend to fire Dr Anthony Fauci after the leading US health expert said earlier mitigation efforts could have saved more lives.

At a contentious briefing with reporters, Mr Trump lashed out at media coverage that has focused on gaps in the US government's response after initial warnings about the disease which has now spread throughout the country.

The coronavirus has killed more than 23,500 people in the country and infected nearly 584,000, according to a Reuters tally.

Mr Trump also lashed out at several governors. Earlier on Monday, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington states announced they were coming up with their own coordinated plan for easing social distancing. New York, New Jersey and other north-eastern states also said they were forming a group to make decisions.

Mr Trump warned the governors, who are Democrats, that they would instead have to go along with his orders.

"The president of the United States calls the shots. If we weren't here for the states, you'd have had a problem in this country like you've never seen before," Mr Trump said.

"When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's got to be... It's total. The governors know that."

Mr Trump, who said a plan to open businesses again would be completed shortly, interrupted his daily briefing to play a campaign-style video that highlighted his actions to tackle the virus and included clips of Democratic and Republican governors praising his efforts.

The president also invited Dr Fauci to the stage in the opening minutes of the briefing to make clear that Mr Trump had followed his recommendations on putting mitigation efforts into place across the country.

Mr Trump, who played down the seriousness of the virus in its initial stages, has chafed at media coverage suggesting he did not do enough to prevent its spread.


On Sunday, he retweeted a call to fire Dr Fauci after the top US expert on infectious diseases said lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner during the outbreak.

Incensed at what he considers to be unfriendly media coverage, Trump ripped into The New York Times, CNN and other major outlets.

"The problem is the press doesn't cover it the way it should," he said.

Mr Trump said he had been "brutalised" by the media. - REUTERS, AFP