Trump supporters erupted in chants of “lock her up” – a refrain from the 2016 campaign, first analyzed by Hillary Clinton, but after it was reshaped against Whitmer and other high-profile Democrats – that Trump did not deny anything.
“Block them all,” he said before pausing to absorb the energy in the crowd.
The striking visual quickly caught Whitmer’s attention, who responded while the president was still speaking.
“This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family and other government officials at risk as we try to save the lives of our compatriots,”; she tweeted. “It needs to stop.”
Trump and other critics of governors’ efforts to fight the virus, which has now infected more than 8 million Americans and killed at least 210,000 nationwide, have repeatedly singled out Whitmer, the state’s first-year governor on the battlefield. In April, Trump wrote “Liberate Michigan” in each headline, and recently ridiculed her as the “queen of castles.”
Earlier this month, federal and state law enforcement officials filed a series of charges – including violating Michigan’s anti-terrorism statute – against at least seven people in connection with a conspiracy to abduct and possibly harm the governor.
But the alleged kidnapping conspiracy, which involved members of a police group that the FBI also suspects of plotting to kill potential police officers and possibly Whitmer herself, has done little to curb criticism from Trump and other conservatives.
“I think they said she was being threatened, right?” And she blamed me, “Trump said incredulously.” She blamed me, and our people worked with her people, so let’s see what happens. Let’s see what happens. “
Trump then called on the FBI to target the antifa, which often returns when the president is questioned about his previous ambiguities about white Supremacist and other extremist groups.
Whitmer’s deputy director of digital technology, Tori Sailor, linked Trump’s comments to outbursts of online abuse against the governor.
“Every time the president does this at a rally, the harsh rhetoric about her immediately escalates on social media,” Sailor wrote. “It simply came to our notice then. It just has to. ”
Trump’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment to Whitmer’s tweet.
A former Trump aide who has become a critic of Anthony Scaramucci has undermined Trump’s rhetoric, saying it was “incitement to violence” and accusing other Republican leaders of complicity in failing to convict her.
“Hey guys: Trump is inciting violence against the sitting governor, @VP @senatemajldr @GOPLeader. Your silence is complicity. Is that how you want to be remembered?” Scaramucci wrote on Twitter.
Lee Chatfield, the speaker of the Michigan State House of Representatives, tweeted after the rally: “I am proud to support the president tonight! I’m happy to vote for him again. And no, Trump didn’t chant ‘lock her up’ about our governor. But others did this, and it was wrong. She was literally just targeted. Let’s discuss the differences. Let’s win the election. But that’s not it. “