President Donald Trump and his opponent Joe Biden offered dueling responses to news that federal and state officials foiled a kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
In his first public mention of the case, Trump fired off a barrage of tweets attacking Whitmer late Thursday, apparently angry that she'd singled him out for "rallying" militias in a speech earlier that day.
...today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. 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...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020
He went on to tweet that he doesn't "tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!"
Earlier Thursday, the president called her "the lockup queen" during phone comments on Fox News.
The governor responded less than half an hour after the first Twitter swipe, tweeting: "Mr. President, I thought you weren’t interested in a virtual debate? You clearly didn't watch my speech earlier."
After state and federal charges were announced Thursday against 13 men accused of plotting to kidnap her, Whitmer made a statement that included an attack on Trump:
Instead – our head of state has spent the past seven months denying science. Ignoring his own health experts. Stoking distrust and fomenting anger. And giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.
Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups – like these two Michigan militia groups.
“Stand back, and stand by,” he said to them. Stand back, and stand by.”
Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry. As a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.
In a statement, Biden echoed the sentiment, describing "a throughline from President Trump’s dog whistles ... to plots such as this one."
When Governor Whitmer worked to protect the people of her state from a deadly pandemic, and saved countless lives, President Trump issued a call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” That call was heard. When protesters with Swastikas and Confederate flags, nooses, and assault rifles descended on Michigan’s capitol echoing the President’s own refrain to “lock her up,” President Trump called them “very good people.”
He is giving oxygen to the bigotry and hate we see on the march in our country.
A similar slam came Friday from Michigan's first black lieutenant governor. Garlin Gilchrist said on CNN that Trump and Republicans are “complicit” by not taking a stronger stance to denounce right-wing hate groups.
"This White House is completely detached from their own reality," Gilchrist said, the Freep reports. The president's refusal to single-out right-wing extremists, while blaming left-leaning groups for violence in cities, provided “a green light [for the defendants] to pursue a dangerous and violent plot."
“The plot that was thwarted showed people will continue to answer the call of the president to violence and division."