Trump came to Michigan with calls to lock up Gov. Whitmer. As recent events show, those words have consequences.
MUSKEGON, Mich.—President Trump walked, maskless, through dense crowds of Michigan supporters on Saturday when he visited for a campaign rally, at which he said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should be arrested.
Trump repeated the false assertion that Michigan is still under a stay-at-home order (it ended months ago) and called on his supporters to take action against the governor.
“You gotta get your governor to open up your state. And get your schools open. The schools have to be opened,” Trump told attendees.
“Lock her up!” chanted the red-hatted crowd.
“Lock ‘em all up,” Trump replied.
This scene came on the heels of the FBI and state law enforcement foiling the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer and overthrow the state government. The alleged intent of the plot against Gov. Whitmer was to “arrest” her and take her to an undisclosed location in Wisconsin to stand “trial” before, ultimately, executing her.
At the local level, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf was condemned by the Michigan Sheriffs Association for telling reporters that the terrorists may have been justified in their efforts as part of a citizen’s arrest of Gov. Whitmer. Citizen’s arrests are illegal in Michigan, and the MSA thought Leaf’s comments were dangerous.
“Unbelievable that somebody in law enforcement could somehow justify that the plot be legal, moral or even American,” said executive director of the MSA Matt Saxton. “It’s astounding.”
“It’s incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me—10 days after that was uncovered—the president is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism,” Gov. Whitmer said Sunday on Meet The Press. “It’s got to end. It is dangerous not just for me and my family but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans.”
Trump’s rhetoric has already been linked to the domestic terrorism plot against Gov. Whitmer, and since that plot was revealed he has only increased his calls of action against Michigan’s governor. At the first presidential debate of 2020, for instance, Trump told violent far-right extremists to “stand back and stand by” when asked by the moderator to denounce their violence.
Despite falsely claiming he had denounced violent extremists at the first debate, Trump was again presented with another opportunity to condemn a violent right-wing extremist group and again refused to denounce them at the recent town halls. Instead he praised them in a move CNN called “horrifying.”
Trump’s daughter-in-law and senior advisor Lara Trump said he did not inspire the domestic terror plot and does not encourage violence, instead insisting that his comments were “light” and “fun” while in Muskegon.
“He wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all,” she told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “It’s a fun, light atmosphere. Of course he wasn’t encouraging people to threaten this woman—that’s ridiculous.”