Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan who was the subject of a rightwing plot to kidnap and possibly kill her over coronavirus lockdown measures, has accused Donald Trump of “inspiring and incentivising domestic terrorism”.
Whitmer spoke after Lara Trump, a campaign surrogate for her father-in-law, insisted the president was merely “having fun” when he attacked Whitmer and responded to chants of “Lock her up!” at a rally in Muskegon.
On Sunday, on NBC’s Meet the Press, Whitmer was asked about the coronavirus situation in her state and Trump’s encouragement of the chants against her.
“It’s incredibly disturbing,” she said, “that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap me, put me on trial and execute me was uncovered, the president is at it again and inspiring and incentivising and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.
“It is wrong. It’s got to end. It is dangerous not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans. People of goodwill on both sides of the aisle need to step up and call this out and bring the heat down.
“This is the United States of America. We do not tolerate actions like he has given comfort to and that’s why we all have to be in this together.”
In Muskegon, Trump targeted Whitmer several times, criticising state rules on the coronavirus, calling the governor “dishonest” and making light of the plot that was foiled by the FBI.
Thirteen men have been charged in connection with the plot, which included plans to storm the state capitol and hold some kind of trial. Trump took credit for federal law enforcement’s role in foiling the plot.
“They said she was threatened,” he said. “And she blamed me. Hopefully you’ll be sending her packing pretty soon.”
The chant of “Lock her up!” was a reprise of chants Trump supporters aimed at Hillary Clinton throughout the 2016 campaign.
Whitmer’s digital director, Tori Saylor, responded on Twitter, writing: “Every single time the president does this at a rally, the violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media. It has to stop. It just has to.”
Lee Chatfield, the Republican speaker of the Michigan house, wrote: “Trump didn’t chant ‘lock her up’ about our governor. But others did and it was wrong. She was literally just targeted. Let’s debate differences. Let’s win elections. But not that.”
But Lara Trump told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday the president “wasn’t doing anything I don’t think to provoke people to threaten this woman at all. He was having fun at a Trump rally and quite frankly, there are bigger issues than this right now for everyday Americans people … he wasn’t encouraging people to threaten this woman, that’s ridiculous.”
The president’s daughter-in-law also said: “Well gosh I would like to show people my social media and the threats against me, the threats against my children.”
Michigan added 1,791 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, bringing its seven-day total past 10,000, a record. Wisconsin, where Trump campaigned later, reported 3,861 new cases on Friday, also a record. Trump slammed anti-coronavirus measures.
“You got to get your governor to open your state and get your schools open,” he said in Muskegon. “The schools have to be open, right?”
More than 8 million people have been infected in the US and nearly 220,000 have died. Joe Biden continues to hammer Trump for his response.
“All President Trump is offering the people of Michigan is more lies and distractions,” the Democratic nominee said. “No plan to get the virus under control, no strategy for pulling our economy out of this recession, no vision for uniting the country.”
Trump told both his rallies Biden would “shut down the country, delay the vaccine and prolong the pandemic”, and insisted the country was turning the corner.
Michigan and Wisconsin are key battleground states in the fight for the electoral college. Trump won both as he took the presidency despite losing the national popular vote to Clinton by nearly 3m ballots. He is behind in both states this year.
News – Gretchen Whitmer: Trump ‘inciting domestic terrorism’ with ‘Lock her up!’ rally chant