Hours before the FBI announced agents broke up an alleged far-right militia plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor, Donald Trump criticised Gretchen Whitmer as a “lockup queen” for stay-at-home measures in the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
He told Fox Business News host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday: “I won Michigan, which hadn't been won in decades and decades … and we should win it again because I brought so much business there because she's the lockup queen.”
The president added: “What she's done to that place is horrible. She's locked it up. She's got people like living in prison. The courts just overturned her. They said what you're doing is unconstitutional.”
Michigan’s Supreme Court had recently ruled against a 1945 public safety law invoked by the governor for restrictions to combat the spread of a virus that has infected more than 26,000 residents and killed more than 6,700.
The president spoke to the network three hours before the FBI announced charges against more than a dozen men allegedly discussed murdering “tyrants” or “taking” a sitting governor over those restrictions.
Six men were charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and face life sentences. Seven other defendants also face state terrorism charges.
Governor Whitmer, whose state is a crucial electoral battleground in the 2020 presidential election, has frequently become a target for attacks from the president and his allies over more stringent efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19, at the guidance of health officials.
The virus “threatens us all,” she said in remarks on Thursday. "This should me a moment for national unity where we all pull together as Americans to meet this challenge head one."
Instead, the president has ignored medical experts, “fomented anger” and “given comfort to those who spread fear, hate and division,” she said.
“For the past seven months, I’ve made tough choices to keep our state safe,” she said. “These have been gut-wrenching decisions.
“And I get it – life has been hard for us all,” she added, pointing to difficulties among business owners, families and schoolchildren.
In May, hundreds of right-wing demonstrators, many of them armed, protested outside the state’s capitol and stormed the building to demand officials to lift restrictions, as a state of emergency was set to expire and lawmakers considered whether to extend it.
“While some members of the legislature might believe this crisis is over, common sense and all of the scientific data tells us we’re not out of the woods yet,” the governor said in a statement at the time, as the state continued to count dozens of daily infections, totalling more than 40,000 by mid-May. By then, nearly 3,800 people had been killed by the disease.
On Twitter and at his rallies, the president continued to rail against the governor, telling supporters on social media to “LIBERATE” several states with Democratic governors.
Revelations of the far-right militia follow warnings from FBI officials that right-wing extremist violence poses a significant threat to national security, with a “potential flashpoint” for violence between Election Day and the 2021 presidential inauguration.
The same day as the first presidential debate, in which the president refused to flatly condemn right-wing extremist and white supremacist violence, the FBI officials in Texas issued a memo, first reported by The Nation, that the influence of certain extremist groups could spread "due to the presence of existing anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, the sentiment of perceived government overreach, heightened tensions due to Covid-19-related state and local restrictions, and violence or criminal activity at lawful protests … that led to violence at otherwise peaceful and lawful protests.”
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