After attacking Whitmer and Benson, Trump turns Twitter fire to Nessel

Dem leaders tweet their support of each other

Attorney General Dana Nessel (left), Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (center) and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (right) | Andrew Roth and Casey Hull photos

President Donald Trump has now gone after all three of the top female officeholders in Michigan, adding Attorney General Dana Nessel to the list late Thursday night after his visit to a Ford plant in Ypsilanti.

The GOP president has frequently attacked Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Twitter and in press conferences, most famously referring to her not by name but as “the woman from Michigan.” During the earlier part of the COVID-19 crisis, he bragged that he even told Vice President Mike Pence, his point person on the disease, not to take her calls.

On Tuesday, Trump blasted Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Twitter — though he didn’t include her name — on voting issues. He first accused her of being “rogue” and “illegally” sending out absentee ballots, which he called the “Voter Fraud path” and threatened to withhold funding.

Benson did not plan to send out ballots; she planned to send applications due to safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, something allowed under Proposal 3, a voting rights amendment to Michigan’s Constitution. He later corrected it in another tweet to “applications,” but kept the same inaccurate claim of illegality and threat.

Updated: Benson counters Trump’s inaccurate voting tweet: ‘We sent applications, not ballots’

On Thursday, Trump turned his Twitter outrage to Nessel, a Democrat who wrote Trump a letter asking him to following Whitmer’s order to wear a mask in the Ford plant due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. He wore a mask for part of the visit while meeting with leaders before giving a speech. But Trump, who frequently slams the media, said he did not want to give reporters “the pleasure” of seeing him with a mask on.

“The president is like a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules,” Nessel said on CNN Thursday. “This is no joke.”

Nessel, an outspoken progressive who has signed on to numerous cases fighting Trump’s economic, environmental, LGBTQ, reproductive rights and health care policies, had more to say about the president.

“He is a ridiculous person, and I am ashamed to have him be president of the United States of America,” Nessel said. “I hope that the voters of Michigan will remember this when November comes. That he didn’t care enough about their safety, he didn’t care about their welfare, he didn’t respect them enough just to engage in the very simple task, the painless task, the easy task of wearing a mask when he was provided one.”

Manufacturing at the Big Three automakers started back up last week, as allowed under one of Whitmer’s orders, and Nessel said she was concerned about the safety of those in the facility. Two Ford plants already had to shut back down due to new coronavirus cases.

Trump spends most of Ypsilanti Ford facility visit maskless, OKs Midland emergency declaration

She said her office is “going to have to have a very serious conversation with Ford in the event that they permitted the president to be in publicly enclosed places in violation of the order.” She did not go into specifics.

Trump responded on Twitter twice afterward. And he used Nessel’s name while accusing her of “viciously attacking Ford Motor Company,” even though her ire was aimed at him.

“The Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General of Michigan, Dana Nessel, is viciously threatening Ford Motor Company for the fact that I inspected a Ventilator plant without a mask. Not their fault, & I did put on a mask. No wonder many auto companies left Michigan, until I came along!” he wrote.

Trump went back for round two, this time accusing her of “stupidity” and saying, without evidence, that Ford could leave Michigan as a result of her position that the company should enforce the coronavirus safety policy. Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, Ford cut thousands of jobs last year.

“Do nothing A.G. of the Great State of Michigan, Dana Nessel, should not be taking her anger and stupidity out on Ford Motor – they might get upset with you and leave the state, like so many other companies have – until I came along and brought business back to Michigan. JOBS!” Trump wrote.

Nessel responded that she was “impressed you know my name,” noting Trump’s previous statements about Benson and Whitmer. She added, “Seems like you have a problem with all 3 women who run MI-as well as your ability to tell the truth.”

And Nessel noted, “Also, hard to say I’ve ‘done nothing’ as AG with all the lawsuits myself and the other @DemocraticAGs have filed and won against you.”

The AG received some support from both Benson and Whitmer. The governor said it “feels like the perfect moment” to say how “grateful” she is for Benson’s and Whitmer’s “dedication and hard work and how proud I am to serve our state with them. These women from Michigan are the best of the best!”

Benson then tweeted, “Back at you Governor” and thanked her for “leading with strength, courage, and fighting to ensure every Michigander is healthy and safe.”

And to bring it back, Nessel responded, “Thanks Gov. I second that notion! Sincerely, That Other-Other Woman from Michigan.”

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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.