Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had stern words for President Trump on Sunday – telling him to stop spending so much time criticizing her and instead spend more time on fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Whitmer, a Democrat, argued that Trump is instigating demoestic terrorism and violence when he should be working to slow the spread of a virus that has already claimed the lives of almost 220,000 Americans.
“Every moment that we are not focused on the fact that there are 220,000 Americans who died from this virus is good for him,” Whitmer said.
She added: “So in that sense, as he incites additional violence against people who are just trying to save one another’s lives, it’s good for him. And that’s why I don’t want to talk about him endangering public servants’ lives. I want to talk about what he hasn’t done, and that’s his job.”
Whitmer’s comments come less than 24 hours after the president held a campaign rally in her state in which he criticized her stringent coronavirus-related restrictions and his supporters chanted “Lock Her Up!” – a phrase frequently heard during Trump’s first White House run in 2016 in reference to then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Whitmer and Trump have had a contentious relationship throughout the pandemic – which was only heightened by rumors that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was considering her as a potential running mate.
The relationship soured even further following the arrest of eight men linked to the right wing paramilitary group Wolverine Watchmen for allegedly plotting to kidnap Whitmer and other lawmakers in the state.
The Michigan governor has blamed Trump for giving “comfort and support” to the vigilante groups like the ones who plotted to kidnap her.
“I am protected by the Michigan State Police, and they are an incredibly professional organization, but I do believe that there are still serious threats that groups like this group, these domestic terrorists, are finding comfort and support in the rhetoric coming out of Republican leadership in the White House to our state house, so I remain concerned about safety and integrity going up to this election,” Whitmer, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” last weekend.
In a press conference on the kidnapping plot earlier that week, Whitmer brought up the president’s Sept. 29 comment that the far-right Proud Boys group should “stand back and stand by.”
“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,” Whitmer said. “‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them. … Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.”
The FBI, however, has released no evidence showing that Trump’s words inspired the alleged conspirators.
The alleged militia members who plotted Whitmer’s kidnapping held meetings and discussions on Facebook that a wired, undercover FBI informant was able to document since early in 2020, according to officials.
Michigan is viewed as a crucial swing state in the upcoming presidential election. Trump narrowly won the state in 2016 – flipping decades of Democratic domination in Michigan – but with two weeks to go before Election Day, Biden holds close to a seven point lead in an average of recent polls.
Fox News’ Evie Fordham contributed to this report.