Reason Roundup

Trump Claims He Has 'Total' Authority Over When States End Social Distancing Rules. He's Wrong.

Plus: Americans plan to stay home for months, courts block more abortion bans, Amash "looking closely" at presidential run, and more...


Donald Trump told America last night that as president, total authority rests with him. "And that's the way it's gotta be. It's total. It's total. And the governors know that," the president said during Monday night's televised press conference on COVID-19 developments.

Last week, Trump told states they were on their own. Last night, he suggested "they can't do anything without the approval of the president."

Trump was referring to state decisions whether to "open the economy" anytime soon, something his administration has been urging state leaders to do while simultaneously denying them access to critical supplies from the National Strategic Stockpile and sometimes seizing gear that states and hospitals managed to acquire on their own.

If there's a possible way to make state leaders look unprepared, Trump seems willing to take it regardless of the potential cost in American lives.

But Trump is wrong about having "total" authority over state leaders, and he's wrong about being able to force a one-size-fits-all solution on the whole country.

Trump may tell Twitter that it's not "the Governors [sic] decision to open up the states" but "that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government," however—as Billy Binion wrote here yesterday—"the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent say otherwise." Or, as John Yoo notes at National Review:

Congress can control commerce that crosses state lines, and even prohibit wholly intrastate activity that affects the national markets. It cannot, however, force individuals and businesses to engage in business in the first place.

Trump is also wrong to think we can move forward based on a national solution rather than regional and local approaches.

New York City is not Yavapai County, Arizona. San Francisco isn't the Iowa suburbs or rural Kentucky. And so on. It's foolish, unproductive, and dangerous to pretend the whole country should be lifting containment measures in unison or to act like one person can know what's right for folks in vastly different communities with varying risk factors and a mish-mash of resources.


Legal battles over state abortion bans continue. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declared in late March that "any type of abortion services … which are not a medical emergency as defined … or otherwise necessary to prevent serious health risks to the unborn child's mother" would be temporarily banned. Earlier this month, a U.S. district judge ruled against the ban. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has upheld the lower court's decision.

That's in line with what the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided last week with regard to an Ohio abortion ban.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit decided the other way for Texas. Abortion providers there have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Meanwhile, Arkansas' abortion-ban battle is just getting started in court. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion challenging the state's ban on abortion procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Amash teases a presidential run. On Monday, Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) responded to a tweet suggesting he should be America's alternate option in the 2020 election for those who care about limited government by saying he was "looking at it closely this week."


Americans plan to stay away from some public spaces for months:

New polling from Morning Consult shows that some consumers won't feel comfortable traveling or heading back to many public spaces at all for at least six months—with many unsure of how to even answer the question of when they'll feel safe returning to normal life.



Anti-drug war activist and judge joins Libertarian Party presidential contest. From Reason's Matt Welch:

Judge Jim Gray, the 2012 Libertarian Party (L.P.) vice presidential nominee and the first sitting jurist to come out against the drug war way back in 1992, announced to his email list Monday that he will seek the party's presidential nomination in tandem with vice presidential candidate Larry Sharpe.

The L.P., America's third-place finisher in the previous two presidential elections, is scheduled to determine its 2020 ticket during a national convention on May 21-25.

More here.


  • The U.S. has recorded more than 23,600 COVID-19 deaths since this time last month:

  • "There is no evidence that the virus now plaguing the world was engineered; scientists largely agree it came from animals. But that is not the same as saying it didn't come from the lab, which spent years testing bat coronaviruses in animals," The Washington Post's Josh Rogin reports.
  • Public service announcement: