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Trump wants to have a 'big rally' in Michigan, says he isn't allowed

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump said in an interview aired Sunday that he wants to have a "big rally" in Michigan but his campaign isn't allowed to during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The president made the comment during an interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." Trump argued that Democrats are purposely keeping their schools and states closed. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said changing the trajectory of new coronavirus cases in the state is key to schools reopening for in-person instruction in seven weeks.

"I called Michigan. I want to have a big rally in Michigan. Do you know we’re not allowed to have a rally in Michigan?" Trump said. "Do you know we’re not allowed to have a rally in Minnesota? Do you know we’re not allowed to have a rally in Nevada? We’re not allowed to have rallies in these Democrat-run states."

President Donald Trump speaks during a law enforcement briefing in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, in Washington.

Trump didn't identify the person or official he called about having an event in Michigan.

But Wallace responded, noting some would say the events are a "health risk." Trump then argued that officials would keep the events from taking place even if precautions were taken.

Whitmer's spokeswoman, Tiffany Brown, said the governor's administration hadn't heard from Trump about wanting to hold a rally in the state

Michigan had reported 6,119 deaths linked to COVID-19 as of Sunday and new cases of the virus have been rising in the state for weeks.

On Saturday night during a "tele-rally" over Facebook with supporters in Michigan, Trump also spoke of having an in-person event in the state, according to a recording provided by his campaign.

“I want to get out there and do the rally as soon as we can and we will be doing that," the president said. "Between COVID and your governor’s restrictions, it really makes it very difficult but we’ll be out there eventually."

In June, Whitmer, a Democrat, said she “would think very seriously about” trying to stop Trump from holding a rally in Michigan during the pandemic, according to an Associated Press report.

The state currently has limits on public gatherings in place to stem the spread of the virus but there are exceptions for protests and other events protected by the First Amendment.

In an interview on "Meet the Press" Sunday, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said she remains concerned about people gathering in large groups and making "simple things," like mask-wearing, political.

"I'm very concerned," Khaldun said. "But I'm also confident that Michiganders can do the right thing. Because we did it before. We saw over 150 deaths a day in Michigan back in March and April. We brought that curve down. So I am confident we can do that again."

Earlier this month, the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., told reporters that he wouldn't be shocked if Whitmer tried to prevent his father from holding events in the state ahead of the November election "under the guise" of COVID-19.

"There would be little shock to me whatsoever that she would do whatever they can under the guise of corona, of course," Trump Jr. said.

"Because again, you could do it safely. You could do it with masks. You could socially distance. You could still have those events realistically."

In response to Trump Jr.'s comments, Whitmer's spokesman Zack Pohl said the governor "is focused on saving the lives of Michiganders and remains unbothered by partisan games and political attacks."

"If the Trump administration was as concerned about protecting the public’s health as it is about hosting dangerous rallies that can be breeding grounds for spreading COVID-19, perhaps there would be a national pandemic response plan or federal mask-up campaign to combat this virus that has already killed tens of thousands of Americans across the United States," Pohl said.

Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016 — when he became the first Republican presidential nominee since 1988 to carry the state — but polls this summer have shown him trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Trump held a rally in Tulsa in June. According to the Associated Press, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said the event "likely contributed" to a surge in new cases of COVID-19.

cmauger@detroitnews.com