WH debates "liability shield" for firms reopening for business during epidemic

Attorneys in the White House Counsel’s Office are reviewing the matter, but some administration officials have raised objections to the idea, including whether it would expose the federal government to legal claims, according to two of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Some White House advisers also have expressed concern that the plan might provoke a political firestorm.

“There’s political trouble here on multiple fronts,” said one person in close communication with the White House about the push. “There are a lot of questions about how to structure this.”

President Trump has pushed to “reopen” the country to reverse the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but numerous executives have told the White House they are hesitant to reopen stores given the potential legal risk, these people said. White House officials are likely to seek the “liability shield” as part of the next stimulus package being taken up by Congress, and also are likely to enact an executive order and unilateral regulatory reform to curtail firms’ liability, a senior administration official said. The exact details of such an order have not been determined and planning remains in flux.