Donald Trump held an in-person rally in Muskegon, Michigan, this weekend, just weeks after his bout with COVID-19. Trump won the state’s electoral votes in the 2016 presidential election and aims to do such again this year, despite now trailing behind Joe Biden by as many as nine points in polls.
A central point of agreement among the crowd during the rally’s start was a bevy of criticisms lobbed at state policies enforcing lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The predominant face of opposition to Trump’s preferred hands-off approach in Michigan is Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer, a Democrat, is already in an uphill political environment, due to both state legislative chambers being controlled by Republicans.
Trump has been an adamant foe to her handling of COVID-19, routinely advocating for the reopening of the state, and celebrating the Michigan Supreme Court’s invalidation of her executive orders related to the virus.
He stated at the rally, “You gotta get your governor to open up your state, okay? And get your schools open. Get your school open. The schools have to be open, right?” A slow tide started in the crowd with the chant, “Lock her up”.
As the chant grew louder, Trump laughed with acknowledgment, saying, “Lock ‘em all up”. The phrase hearkens back to his infamous demand for the jailing of Hillary Clinton during his 2016 presidential campaign.
The controversial attack against Michigan’s governor arises roughly a week after it was revealed that the FBI had arrested 13 alleged domestic terrorists for conspiring to kidnap and kill Governor Whitmer.
President Trump’s daughter-in-law and senior adviser to his re-election campaign, Lara Trump, took to CNN’s State of the Union to insist the president was just “having fun at a Trump rally”, and that “He wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all”.
Governor Whitmer issued a stern rebuttal to the chant on NBC's Meet the Press, saying, "It's incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me — 10 days after that was uncovered — the president is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism."