WASHINGTON, DC - President Donald Trump said Friday he was declaring a national emergency -- "two very big words" -- to free up federal resources to combat coronavirus.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said the action would "unleash the full power of the federal government."
Trump is under pressure to take more decisive action as the virus begins altering everyday life for nearly every American.
On Thursday, CNN reported that Trump had decided to make the declaration but that it was still undergoing legal review at the White House.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, spoke to Vice President Mike Pence Thursday and requested the Trump administration declare an emergency to provide vital assistance to states such as Washington on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, a Washington state official told CNN.
The official told CNN they are "hopeful that (Friday's) announcement will provide the kinds of assistance that the governor requested."
White House aides have been weighing the move for the past several days as a way to provide more resources for combating the coronavirus outbreak. Trump is also debating whether to support a legislative package to combat the outbreak negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
"We have things that I can do, we have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act," Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office, referring to the federal law that dictates national disasters and emergencies. "I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. And if I need to do something, I'll do it. I have the right to do a lot of things that people don't even know about."
But he stopped short of saying whether he planned to approve the new declaration later in the day.
"I don't want to say that," he said.
The declaration would free up funding and allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to head up certain aspects of the outbreak response.
Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in conjunction with Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington state and Gary Peters of Michigan, sent a letter asking Trump to "immediately" consider disaster declaration requests for the coronavirus.
There are two types of declarations that a governor could request from the President -- emergency declarations and major disaster declarations, both of which are authorized by the Stafford Act.
A declaration would put FEMA -- the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that would be activated by a declaration -- in a position to help provide additional supplies, assist with logistics like the transport of residents if needed, and put up temporary medical facilities.