Trump's U.S. attorneys take credit for spurring Whitmer's reopening plan

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan's two U.S. attorneys praised Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Monday announcement to reopen the state, noting it followed “action by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.”

The governor’s order moving Michigan out of a stay-home order and into loosened restrictions allowed under Stage 4 of her reopening plan “better respects the constitutional liberties of Michiganders,” according to a Tuesday statement by Michigan-based U.S attorneys Matthew Schneider and Andrew Birge as well as U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband.

Attorney General William Barr

The attorneys noted, however, there are still some facilities that remain close — such as hair salons and barbershops, gyms and indoor cinemas — and litigation challenging the governor’s authority are ongoing. 

"The Department of Justice will continue to prioritize Attorney General Barr’s memorandum regarding balancing public safety with the preservation of civil rights and to monitor the legality of the process of reopening in Michigan,” the statement said.

The statement comes four days after the Trump administration's Department of Justice filed Friday a “statement of interest” in a federal lawsuit brought by seven businesses challenging the governor’s executive orders to combat COVID-19. 

The department said in its Friday filing that the businesses have "identified what appear to be arbitrary distinctions among business and activities in the state of Michigan that lack a rational basis."

"Under the governor’s orders, it’s OK to go to a hardware store and buy a jacket, but it’s a crime to go inside a clothing store and buy the identical jacket without making an appointment," Schneider said in a Friday press release.

"That’s arbitrary. As important as it is that we stay safe during these challenging times, it is also important to remember that we do not abandon our freedoms and our dedication to the rule of law in times of emergency."

Whitmer’s decision to reopen Monday was based on her repeated assurance that “she would make decisions based on expertise and data,” said Tiffany Brown, the governorer’s spokeswoman.