“It’s not that the president doesn’t have a remarkable amount of power to respond to a public health crisis. It’s that these are not the powers he has,” said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law professor who specializes in constitutional and national security law.

First it was Trump’s assertion that he could force governors to reopen their economies before they felt ready. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he claimed.

Trump soon dropped the threat, saying he would instead leave such decisions to the states. But he has revived the idea in recent days as he has tried to pressure governors to allow churches and other places of worship to hold in-person services, even where stay-at-home orders and other limits on large gatherings remain in effect.

Asked Tuesday what authority he had to enforce such a mandate, Trump was cagey…

“He’s still trying to wield his often outrageous interpretations of the law as a cudgel to bludgeon others,” said Joshua Geltzer, founding executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center.