Hours after federal authorities charged six people with attempting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, she held a press conference and blamed President Donald Trump for creating an environment that encourages such radical criminal behavior.
“Our head of state has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger, and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division,” Whitmer told reporters in Lansing, the state capital, on Thursday.
“Last week,” she said, “the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups. Stand back and stand by, he told them.”
Whitmer said that hate groups heard the president’s words “not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said six people had been charged with plotting to kidnap Whitmer as part of a plan to overthrow the state’s government. The suspects allegedly staked out Whitmer’s vacation home and planned to set off explosives to distract police while they kidnapped the governor. The U.S. said it would also bring charges against seven other people connected to the Wolverine Watchmen militia for attempts to target law enforcement officers and start a civil war.
Trump “has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. “Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations. America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who spoke with Whitmer earlier in the day, complimented the FBI and police for handling the matter and criticized Trump. “The words of a president matter,” Biden said. “They can cause a nation to have the market rise or fall, go to war, make peace, but they can also breathe oxygen into those who are filled with hate and danger. And I just think it’s got to stop.”
Whitmer’s comments are the latest chapter in a running feud with Trump. She accused the president of being slow to deliver medical supplies in March when the Covid-19 pandemic was spreading rapidly in her state. Trump, in turn, criticized Whitmer for not swiftly reopening the Michigan economy.
Trump told Vice President Mike Pence, at a White House briefing in late March, “Don’t call the woman in Michigan.” That prompted her supporters to don t-shirts saying, “That Woman From Michigan.”
Whitmer said during the press conference that she never expected to have her life threatened as governor.
“When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this,” Whitmer said at the briefing.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a deep political divide in the state where Whitmer initiated some of the nation’s toughest mandates to stop the spread of the virus. That led to criticism from Trump and Republican leaders in the state. Marches against her orders were organized and an armed protest at the capitol led to the cancellation of a legislative session.
Whitmer’s measures were effective at slowing the spread of the virus. In early April, the state was seeing more than 2,000 new cases a day. The number has since dropped to fewer than 1,000 new cases on some days and less then 100 on others. The state’s unemployment rate fell to 8.7% in August from more than 10% in June, close to the national rate of 8.4%.
Whitmer had been using emergency orders to enforce restrictions on schools, businesses and citizens to slow the spread of the virus, relying on a 1945 law granting the governor broad emergency powers. However, the state’s high court found that unconstitutional on Friday. That prompted Trump to call the decision a “BIG win” in a tweet on Wednesday.
We just got a BIG win for the people of Michigan. Open up your Churches and your Schools. Auto companies pouring in and expanding (thank you Mr. President!). Have fun!Young Americans for Liberty
@YALiberty.@GovWhitmer is very sad the Michigan Supreme Court took away her unconstitutional emergency powers.
She claims with a straight face that the state economy is at risk without her mandates preventing people from working.
3:06 PM · Oct 7, 2020
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