President Donald Trump made a Saturday stop in Muskegon for a reelection rally, where he repeated a number of his favorite claims, including one that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is keeping the state locked down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump took his usual jabs at Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden — including claiming that he will ruin Michigan’s economy, increase taxes and “turn Michigan into a refugee camp” if elected — but one of his biggest attacks of the night was directed at Whitmer.
The Democratic governor was the target of an alleged domestic terrorist kidnapping and assassination plot orchestrated by 14 men who had ties to Michigan militia groups and the extremist Boogaloo Bois, who held a rally at the Michigan Capitol on Saturday. Federal and state officials announced the arrests last week.
“You gotta get your governor to open up your state. And get your schools open. The schools have to be opened,” Trump said.
Trump’s supporters proceeded to chant “Lock her up” about Whitmer, which got a chuckle from the president. “Lock ‘em all up,” he said, referring to his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats.
The state is not locked down. Whitmer lifted her statewide stay-home order on June 1. Earlier this month, the Michigan Supreme Court tossed an emergency powers law she used as the basis for her emergency orders, thus lifting additional restrictions. Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature have left it up to school districts to decide whether to open for in-person learning or move to a virtual format.
Whitmer condemned Trump’s remarks at the rally.
“This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans,” Whitmer tweeted. “It needs to stop.”
This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans. It needs to stop. https://t.co/EWkNQx3Ppx
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) October 17, 2020
Whitmer’s deputy digital director, Tori Saylor, said the rhetoric against the governor needs to stop.
I am the Governor's Deputy Digital Director. I see everything that is said about and to her online.
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. https://t.co/eupQXzGydN
— Tori Saylor (@tori_saylor) October 17, 2020
“I see everything that is said about and to [Whitmer] online,” Saylor wrote. “Every single time the President does this at a rally, the violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media.”
State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) called out the “lock her up” chants from the crowd, but did not criticize Trump’s comments.
“I was proud to speak in support of the President tonight! I’m excited to vote for him again. And no, 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,” he tweeted.
I was proud to speak in support of the President tonight! I’m excited to vote for him again. And no, 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.
— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) October 18, 2020
Trump took aim at U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) multiple times during the night, repeating a baseless claim that Omar, a Somali refugee and member of the progressive group of congresswomen known as “The Squad,” hates America.
His Saturday rally took place in Michigan, but he twice urged supporters to help him win Minnesota — a state that has gone blue in every general election since 1976.
Trump also told supporters in Michigan to get out and vote for GOP Senate nominee John James, who is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) for one of Michigan’s two seats in the U.S. Senate.
“[James] is running against somebody that nobody ever heard of: Peters,” Trump said. “Who the hell is Peters? Nobody ever heard of him.”
At a Southfield event Friday, Biden made the case for Peters, who joined him.
James did not attend the Trump rally, but Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox and National Rifle Association (NRA) activist and rocker Ted Nugent were on hand.
The rally in Muskegon drew thousands of supporters. It’s the latest in a series of campaign events for the president ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.
Trump last appeared in the state on Sept. 10 for a rally in Saginaw County.
Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, the president’s children, will travel to Michigan next week to campaign for their father. Ivanka visited Detroit in early September for a tour of a General Motors (GM) design and technology facility.
Ivanka Trump will visit Kent County on Monday, while Eric Trump will pay a visit to Lansing and Willis.