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Trump criticizes Whitmer's 'lockdown' during televised town hall

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump on Thursday criticized Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and lauded a state Supreme Court decision ending her emergency powers during a live Town Hall on NBC News

Trump’s comments echoed criticisms he made earlier in the day on Fox News when he said the governor “wants to be a dictator.”

President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday.

The town hall comments came after the Republican president was asked about whether he supports the idea of loosening restrictions to allow herd immunity — immunity to the disease by a large portion of the population. Trump responded that “the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.”

“We won a big case in Michigan because that governor has a lockdown where nobody but her husband can do anything,” he said, referring to the request by Whitmer’s husband to speed up the launch of his boat during the COVID-19 pandemic. “He can go out and do anything he wants, but nobody else can.”

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In May, Whitmer's husband, Marc Mallory, had called a Northern Michigan dock company and mentioned his connection to the governor in his request to get his boat placed in the water after the company said there was a backlog of customers waiting to get their boats launched.

Whitmer said the comment was a "failed attempt at humor" by her husband, which he regretted.

“Its unconstitutional what they’re doing,” Trump said of stay-home orders in various states. 

Whitmer largely lifted Michigan's stay-home order in June, but left reduced restrictions in place before two Oct. 2 Supreme Court rulings ended her emergency authority.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that a 1945 law underpinning Whitmer's emergency powers was unconstitutional. The high court unanimously ruled that Whitmer had exceeded the authority available under a 1976 law by extending Michigan's state of emergency past April 30 without the approval of the Legislature. 

Whitmer has since restored some of her former executive orders on masks, employee health screenings and restaurant capacity through epidemic orders issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

The Michigan Legislature this week also passed bills that would restore other orders on unemployment aid extensions and electronic meetings. They passed legislation that diverted from Whitmer's policies on nursing home admissions and visits and on liability protections for businesses, health care workers, clients and employees. 

Trump's comments come roughly a week after federal and state authorities announced charges against 13 people who they say plotted to kidnap Whitmer, storm the Michigan Capitol and potentially harm political figures. 

After charges were announced against 13 of the suspects, Whitmer criticized Republican leaders who had failed to condemn fringe groups, referring to Trump's statements at the first presidential debate when he told the Proud Boys to "stand down and stand by."

Trump fired back in a tweet saying Whitmer had done "a terrible job" for Michigan, locking down the state for everyone except her husband.

"Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist -- while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities," he wrote. "I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence."

eleblanc@detroitnews.com