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President Trump claims Gov. Whitmer 'wants to be a dictator'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump contended Thursday that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer "wants to be a dictator" during a Fox Business interview.

Trump made the comment while calling into the show "Varney & Co." and a week after federal agents revealed a plot to overthrow the government and kidnap Whitmer, who has repeatedly said she's following science and data in responding to COVID-19.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, left, and President Donald Trump

Authorities have arrested 13 individuals connected to the kidnapping plot. A 14th person has also been charged, Attorney General Dana Nessel revealed Thursday.

During the interview on Fox Business Thursday morning, the president, who will be in Michigan for a Saturday event, began talking about his push to get states to lift restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

"We’re winning a lot of lawsuits about that," Trump said, referencing the Michigan Supreme Court's Oct. 2 decision that effectively struck down Whitmer's emergency powers to issue unilateral executive orders in response to the virus.

The state's high court ruled 4-3 that a law allowing the governor to declare emergencies and keep them in place without legislative input — the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act — was unconstitutional because it delegated too much legislative authority to the governor. The court also ruled unanimously that the Democratic governor didn't comply with a 1976 law that required her to get legislative approval after April 30 to extend the COVID-19 emergency.

"Michigan, she has to open up," Trump said. "She wants to be a dictator in Michigan, and the people can’t stand her."

However, the first-term Democratic governor was viewed favorably by 51% of respondents in a Detroit News-WDIV poll from Sept. 30 through Oct. 3 of 600 likely state voters. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has also re-issued some of Whitmer's restrictions through its own epidemic orders.

On Thursday, the president repeated his claim that Democratic governors will begin reopening their states after the Nov. 3 election.

Michigan, like many other states, is facing surges in new COVID-19 cases. The state reported 7,140 new cases of the virus last week, the largest weekly total since April.

"It is very possible that this is the beginning of a second wave," Michigan Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun told a Tuesday meeting of state and public health officials.

cmauger@detroitnews.com