Donald Trump is threatening to use a never-before-employed power of his office to adjourn both chambers of Congress so he can make "recess appointments" to fill vacant positions within his administration he says Senate Democrats are keeping empty amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Trump opened his daily virus press conference on Wednesday by griping about Senate Democrats blocking tens of his nominees, alleging many otherwise would be working on virus-related efforts. He offered few specifics, however, on how the federal virus response might be different if a substantial amount of those individuals had been approved by the upper chamber.
Article II, Section 3, Clause 3 of the US Constitution gives a president the power to adjourn both chambers if they cannot agree on an adjourn date. No chief executive, however, has ever used it.
The president said he would prefer "not doing" the adjournment order, but feels strongly he "needs" to make some appointments.
He does have another option, which many presidents have turned to when unable to convince the minority party to provide the votes needed to confirm an executive branch official: Find other nominees that are more agreeable to Democrats.
Both chambers have been meeting in so-called pro forma sessions, though with almost no legislators present.
On the Senate side, doing so blocks a president from making recess appointments.
Curiously, it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, who controls the chamber's calendar. He began holding pro formas early in Mr Trump's term to block just that: recess appointments, opting to ensure his chamber would have a say in vetting potential Trump administration officials.
A spokesman for Mr McConnell had not responded to an inquiry for comment.
Notably, Mr Trump falsely said he had pushed over 445 federal judges through the Senate confirmation process. The real number is closer to 200.
Meantime, Mr Trump has been panned by Democrats and some health experts about the federal government not setting up a comprehensive testing program. On Tuesday night, he tried to shift blame on testing to governors; the next night, he said "we're not going to run a parking lot" typically used by shoppers going to big-box retailers, for instance, "from Washington, DC."
The president also partially sidestepped a question about reports US intelligence agencies have concluded the coronavirus went public via an intern at a Chinese testing facility, who infected her boyfriend – and he went to a wet market and sent it viral. But he did say "we're hearing more and more about" that version of events.
In a comment likely to be widely renounced by economists, the US leader declared America a "developing nation" after complaining that China is often still considered such despite its booming economy.
Additionally, Mr Trump announced an announcement coming Thursday "afternoon" during yet another Covid-19 press conference: He will spell out the guidelines he wants state chiefs executive to use to craft plans for reopening their jurisdictions.
The guidelines are part of a broader walking back of a threat he made earlier this week to issue such an order himself, insisting he has "total" power to do so – before backing down 24 hours later.
Legal experts say it is as doubtful under the Constitution and existing statutes that any governor would need Mr Trump's approval to issue individual reopening orders based on the conditions in their states, which vary greatly. It also is not certain they have to craft the plans he for which he will lay out specifications.
White House sources have not waived The Independent off the notion that Mr Trump, in a Tuesday tweet, threatened to withhold federal aid from states if their governors opted against complying with his demands or orders.
The president briefed for under an hour on Wednesday, saying it was "freezing" in the Rose Garden. White House aides have made clear for years that it is Mr Trump who typically decides where he will hold events, making his early – by his standards – exit curious. The briefing was initially scheduled for the indoor and climate-controlled James Brady Briefing Room.