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Michigan Dems attack Trump's 'broken promises' ahead of Warren visit

Warren — The state's Democratic Party leader on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump for "broken promises" and a "toxic economic agenda" ahead of his visit to a Macomb County auto supplier.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes made the remarks during a news conference in front of Dana Inc., on Van Dyke where Trump is set to appear in the afternoon to discuss the benefits of the newly signed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The visit comes amid Trump's continuing impeachment trial, where senators are still asking questions of the House managers and president's defense team. 

Barnes noted Trump's promise to preserve manufacturing jobs, yet plants have shut down in Wayne County, Downriver and elsewhere in Michigan. The state lost 5,300 manufacturing jobs in 2019 alone, she said.

"These broken promises by Donald Trump are yet more evidence that we cannot afford four more years of this ineffective president," said Barnes, who was joined Thursday by Macomb County Commissioner Robert Mijac, D-Sterling Heights, and longtime auto mechanic, Tony Durkacs of Redford Township.

The same U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows Michigan has gained 12,100 manufacturing jobs overall since Trump took office in January 2017, including the decline in 2019.

Michigan Democrats won't let voters forget Trump's broken promises, Barnes said.

"It worked in 2018, when Democrats across the state swept into office riding a blue wave of Michigan voters who rejected this failed president, and it's going to work again in 2020," she said. 

(From left) Macomb county commissioner Robert Mijac, Michigan Democratic Party chair Lavora Barnes, and Ford body technician Tony Durkacs chat before the start of a press conference about the visit by President Donald Trump in front of Dana Incorporated, in Warren January 30, 2020.

Trump discussed Thursday the new trade deal signed Wednesday that replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement and fulfills a campaign promise he made. 

Under the USMCA, automakers will have to produce vehicles with 75% of parts originating from the United States, Canada or Mexico to qualify for duty-free treatment. The requirement is an increase from 62.5% under the NAFTA rules.

The Trump administration has expressed optimism that the USMCA and recent "Phase One" trade deal with China will spur economic growth as the president heads into the reelection battle.

No Democrat running for president could match the results delivered by the Trump administration, State Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox said in a Thursday response to the criticism. 

"The Michigan Democrat Party can seek to push their false narratives all they want, but hard-working Michiganders know the truth — we are better off today than we were four years ago because of President Trump's leadership. End of story," Cox said in a statement. "Michigan families have seen an average tax cut of over $1,400 to go along with ... 288 opportunity zones created in our state."

Trump overwhelmingly won Macomb County over Democrat Hillary Clinton. But Democrats contend there are economic problems in the president's 2016 stronghold.

More than 200 people stood along the sides of Van Dyke Avenue, watching as Michigan State Police and Secret Service cars passed and briefly waving at Trump’s motorcade before he entered Dana Inc.

His supporters gathered in a strip mall parking lot, holding signs and taking photos with the Trump Unity Bridge, a 2004 Yukon XL with an attached motorcycle trailer towing “Trump” in large white letters.

Flags as big as 16 feet long reading "Trump 2020" waved above those dancing to the beat of “YMCA,” but people were singing “U-S-M-C-A” and “Trump man” in place of "young man" in the original song.

Supporters well outnumbered less than 10 protesters, who left before streets closed for Trump’s escort. 

Nick Wisniewski, a used car dealership owner from Shelby Township, said he showed up to support Trump because he believes the country is doing well under his presidency. 

“It’s a great day whether you support him or not,” said Wisniewski, 39, who was dressed in a MAGA onesie. “The economy is going great and you don’t not vote for the same president when things are going well so, yes, I will be voting for him again. ”

At the Democratic event four hours before Trump's visit, Mijac said workers in Macomb County are struggling. Their wages, he said, have been flat for years, with 25% earning $12 an hour or less.

"It's not just about Donald Trump, it's about the Republican policies that they have supported over the years that have not helped out working people. Hopefully we can change that," he said.

Tom Moran, of Fenton, displays a sign critical of President Donald Trump before a visit from the president at Dana Incorporated, in Warren January 30, 2020.

But a Trump supporter who showed up outside the Dana plant Thursday said the president deserves another four-year term. 

"Our economy is just booming," said Marlene Mastromatteo, 67, of St. Clair Shores, who added she attended a Trump rally in 2016. "He's not failing the public."

Since Trump took office, Michigan has gained more than 127,000 jobs and seen its unemployment rate drop a full percentage point to 3.9% in December, according to BLS data.

The United Auto Workers, in a statement Wednesday, said the new agreement won't bring back hundreds of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs already lost to Mexico, noting investment in workers and fixes for bad tax and labor laws are needed. 

Dozens of protesters gathered and shouted in the late afternoon when Trump's limousine left the Dana event.

cferretti@detroitnews.com

Staff Writers Ian Thibodeau and Keith Laing contributed.