President Donald Trump fired back at Democratic governors on Tuesday with a bizarre tweet about one of his “favorite” movies, Mutiny on the Bounty—a barb aimed at states on the west and east coasts of the country that have formed coalitions to decide when to ease coronavirus lockdowns.
Trump claimed during a coronavirus press briefing on Monday that it was ultimately up to the president to decide when and how to reopen states. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo subsequently likened Trump’s claim of having “total” authority over states to being “a king.”
On Tuesday, Trump hit back, claiming that Cuomo had been “begging for everything” from the federal government and couldn’t then suddenly call for independence.
“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,” the president tweeted. “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”
Cuomo warned on Tuesday morning that if President Trump attempted to override governors’ decisions to reopen state economies, it would create “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades” and could put lives at risk. He has repeatedly warned of the risks of reopening too early, and causing a second wave of infections.
“If he says to me, ‘I declare it open,’ and that is a public health risk or it’s reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it,” Cuomo said in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Trump also tweeted the reference to Mutiny on the Bounty, which he said is one of his “all time favorite movies.” He compared himself with the main character, Lieutenant William Bligh, who some Twitter users pointed out was a dictatorial captain who was cruel to his own crewmen, which caused them to rebel against him.
“Tell the Democrat Governors that ‘Mutiny On The Bounty’ was one of my all time favorite movies,” he wrote. “A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch, especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain. Too easy!”
The tweet implied Trump had the power to withhold federal resources from states in an effort to get governors to abide by his timeline for reopening the economy.
Legal experts have consistently rebutted the assertion that a president can decide when to remove lockdowns and reopen states, arguing that the federal government does not have the power to do so.
The governors of Washington, California, and Oregon—the first states to battle a coronavirus outbreak—announced Monday they’d work together as a coalition to reopen their economies while continuing to control the spread of the virus.
Cuomo also announced Monday that the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Delaware would work together to coordinate plans to reopen the region’s economies.
On Tuesday, Cuomo said he “didn’t quite follow the exact meaning” of Trump’s Mutiny on the Bounty tweet but that it showed Trump “is clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue.”
“The worst thing we can do in all of this is start with political division and start with partisanship,” he said. “If he wants a fight from me, he’s not going to get it.”