The Cold War continues between Cuomo and Trump

President Trump during a coronavirus update briefing on Monday, March 30th.
President Trump during a coronavirus update briefing on Monday, March 30th.
Office White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen
President Trump during a coronavirus update briefing on Monday, March 30th.

The Cold War continues between Cuomo and Trump

The governor is still trying to play nice with the president.
April 20, 2020

With total deaths and hospitalizations falling, the upcoming weeks will be crucial for determining whether or not New York has already passed the worst of the pandemic – and for how any political combat between Cuomo and President Donald Trump plays out.

Significant tensions over social distancing, federal funding, and the state and federal governments’ respective responsibilities during the pandemic have complicated the governor’s approach to the pandemic at numerous junctures. Even so, he is still trying to play nice with the mercurial president while pushing for billions in additional federal funding and more federal assistance to increase the state’s testing capacity – according to authorities, the state would likely need to test millions of people statewide before beginning a gradual lifting of social distancing restrictions in conjunction with neighboring states. 

Cuomo has said that not only does the state need more federal money, but it also needs the federal government’s influence to acquire critical testing supplies from China for the state’s 300 testing labs.

“This is a quagmire because it’s not just funding,” Cuomo said. “I don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong with that national supply chain question, but that's where the federal government could help.” 

Though Cuomo and Trump clashed last week, there appears to an uneasy truce between the two as of Monday morning, with the president – who, based on his tweeting, is an avid watcher of Cuomo’s press conferences – appears to be distancing himself from the constitutionally inaccurate claim he made last week to “total” authority over the governors. 

“States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing,” Trump tweeted Monday morning as Cuomo spoke. “But we will work with the Governors and get it done.” An earlier tweet by Trump also suggested that he was distancing himself from his past calls to “liberate” states like Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota from governors who have imposed strict social distancing controls. 

The president has benefited from having a constructive relationship with Cuomo, whose praise the president has touted at recent White House press conferences. But his recent cordiality could disappear at any time, especially considering how social distancing protests have had a distinctly Trumpian dimension

The protests have become a proxy battle of sorts in recent days, with the president expressing support and the Cuomo administration highlighting the pushback to protesters from health care professionals. “In awe of our healthcare heroes,” Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, tweeted on Monday morning. 

Like the United States and the Soviet Union during the real Cold War, the overriding concern is that such simmering tensions could erupt into an open conflict, but for now, Cuomo and Trump appear to be limiting the field of battle – at least as a critical week begins for New York, the hardest-hit state of them all. 

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.