Trump targets Dingell, late husband during rally with hell reference
Battle Creek — President Donald Trump took aim at a few Michigan Democrats Wednesday during a campaign rally as the Michigan House Democratic delegation joined their colleagues in voting to impeach him.
Trump also targeted U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, for voting to impeach and took a poke at her late husband John, suggesting the longtime Catholic and longest-serving member of Congress in the U.S. might be in hell.
Trump said he gave U.S. Rep. John Dingell the "A+" treatment in terms of funeral honors earlier this year. In return, Debbie Dingell then extended to Trump the "most profuse thank you" for the funeral honors and said her husband was "looking down" on them, the president said.
"I said that's OK. Don't worry about it. Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. Maybe," Trump said to a mixture of groans, laughter and applause from the crowd.
“But let's assume he's looking down."
Dingell responded to the slight on Twitter, asking Trump to "set politics aside."
"My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service," she said. "I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine, and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder."
Family friend and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, tweeted that Trump owed Dingell an apology.
"I’ve always looked up to John Dingell - my good friend and a great Michigan legend," said Upton, who voted Wednesday against both articles of impeachment. "There was no need to 'dis' him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due."
Upton was with Dingell at a Problem Solvers Caucus dinner when Trump made the comments, and the bipartisan caucus members were supportive of the Dearborn congresswoman, a House aide said.
A White House press secretary said on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday morning that questions about the Dingell comment would have to be directed to the president, but noted Trump is a "counter-puncher."
"It was a very, very supportive and wild crowd and he was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the past few days," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said on the show.
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, rose to Dingell's defense on Twitter. Stevens announced her support for impeachment Tuesday shortly before Dingell did.
"This is shameful Mr. President," Stevens wrote. "Insinuating that John Dingell, a loving catholic, WWII hero, now rests in hell. How dare you? I have no words for the pain you are causing my dear friend Debbie Dingell and the people of Michigan right now."
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, also took to Twitter to stand with Dingell.
"Mr. President, shame on you," said Slotkin, who announced Monday her vote to impeach. "Going after Rep. John Dingell, a WWII vet and devoted public servant who spent his life fighting for Michiganders, demeans you and your office."
Slotkin and Stevens are freshmen lawmakers who flipped Republican districts in 2018, but have faced a television ad blitz criticizing their votes to approve an impeachment inquiry.
Dingell explained her decision to support impeachment on Tuesday, arguing that Congress has a “moral responsibility” to protect national security, democracy and the Constitution through the impeachment process.
“We are a divided nation, but we can never be divided on the rule of law,” she said. “President Trump and his administration took actions that threatened our national security, abused the power of the office, and undermined our elections.”
Dingell represents the Democratic-dominated 12th District that represents portions of Wayne and Washtenaw counties and isn't expected to have a serious Republican challenge in the 2020 elections.
On Saturday, Dingell told Fox News it was clear the White House had tried to "block key witnesses from testifying" as part of Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
Trump tweeted later the same day that he had extended top memorial and funeral service honors in February for Dingell's late husband.
"Now I watch her ripping me as part of the Democrats Impeachment Hoax. Really pathetic!" he said on Twitter.
The Associated Press contributed.