United States President Donald Trump has claimed “total” power to lift the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, contradicting governors and legal experts.
“The president of the United States calls the shots,” Mr Trump said during a combative press conference in which he feuded with reporters.
But Trump’s claim goes against the US Constitution which says the states maintain public order and safety.
Ten states on the US East and West coasts are planning to lift their strict stay-at-home orders.
The US is the global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic with 554,6849 confirmed cases and 23,608 deaths.
What did President Trump say?
Mr Trump, a Republican, told the daily White House coronavirus briefing on Monday that his administration was finalising a plan to reopen the US economy, which has been largely shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The Trump administration has signalled 1 May as a potential date for easing the restrictions.
The current White House recommendations for Americans to avoid restaurants and non-essential travel and keep in-person gatherings to no more than 10 people expire on 30 April.
But when journalists queried whether Mr Trump had the authority to over-ride stay-at-home orders imposed on a state-by-state basis, he said: “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total.
“It’s total. The governors know that.”
He added: “That being said, we’re going to work with the states.”
The president insisted “numerous provisions” in the US founding charter give him such power, without specifying which ones.
But legal experts say the president does not have the authority to reverse a public health restriction put in place at the state or local level.
Asked by the BBC’s Jon Sopel if he was concerned about the possibility of having to close the economy again if a second wave of coronavirus strikes, Mr Trump said: “It does weigh on my mind.”
He told reporters the number of deaths from the virus in the US had begun to plateau, indicating that social distancing efforts had succeeded.
During the briefing, the White House played a video montage lambasting the media coverage, touting the president’s handling of the pandemic and clips of governors praising the Trump administration.
Several news outlets, which have been broadcasting the daily briefings live, quickly cut away.