After President Donald Trump has railed against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home order with his “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” tweet in April, his Department of Justice (DOJ) has backed a lawsuit against her emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement of interest, the DOJ called the Democratic governor’s measures “arbitrary” and “irrational.” Michigan has been one of the hardest-hit states in the crisis, with 56,621 cases and 5,406 deaths as of Friday.
The DOJ has backed suits opposing restrictions in other states, as well, including Illinois and California, which both have Democratic governors who have imposed strict restrictions to fight COVID-19.
While the DOJ is traditionally independent from the president, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has worked closely with Trump, like over the president’s threats to Ukraine that led to his eventual impeachment in December. In September 2019, the Associated Press noted that Trump often “blurs lines between personal lawyer [and] attorney general.”
Trump has said repeatedly he wants the economy “reopened,” but faces limits as to what he can do “particularly in states not governed by allies of the president,”the “DOJ’s actions suggest it is increasingly willing to help the president find ways around this limitation.”
The case filed in U.S. District Court for the Western Division is Signature Sotherby’s International Realty Inc. et. al v. Whitmer. The other six businesses suing Whitmer are: Executive Property Maintenance, Intraco Corporation, Inc., Casite Intraco LLC, Hillsdale Jewelers, Shortt Dental; and Midwest Carwash Association.
Several lawsuits have been filed against Whitmer’s emergency orders, including a state suit by the Legislature, which Democratic caucuses oppose. Republican leaders lost in the Court of Claims but have appealed to the state Supreme Court.