Trump sows confusion by invoking presidential powers to fight the coronavirus

Eager to demonstrate that he is in control of a viral outbreak that is spreading rapidly across the country, President Trump has ramped up efforts to show he is using some of his broadest powers as commander in chief.

But the unprecedented push has been plagued by growing confusion about how far his authorities actually extend and how much he is willing to use them.

He blindsided New York’s governor Saturday by publicly announcing a potential quarantine order on the state’s residents, only to retreat from the idea hours later. This came a day after he authorized his government to use the Defense Production Act, a move on which he’d been taking an on-again, off-again stance, but it remains unclear whether that power will be used.

And he is due to issue new guidelines next week about whether the country should continue social distancing practices — but he’s vacillated between all but declaring victory against the coronavirus and acceding to experts who say the national slowdown may have to continue for several more weeks.