The White House approved Michigan’s request for an emergency declaration Saturday, after a week of contentious public feuding between President Donald Trump and the state’s governor over measures to combat the coronavirus.
The squabble between Trump and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which has played out across Twitter, cable news and radio airwaves, has been one of several conflicts simmering between Trump and governors who have criticized the federal response to the pandemic — and then seen Trump return fire online or in his press briefings.
Governors across the country, including Whitmer, have repeatedly called on Trump to use the Defense Production Act to force private companies to manufacture life-saving medical supplies, including protective hospital masks and ventilators. Governors have also clashed with Trump about state-imposed lock-downs and travel bans.
Whitmer — a first-term governor who in February delivered the Democrats’ response to Trump’s State of the Union address — charged in an interview Friday morning that Trump’s actions have prevented her state from getting the equipment it needs.
“What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer told Detroit’s WWJ 950. “It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”
Trump first invoked the DPA later Friday following escalating public criticism of General Motors, after the White House and company failed to reach a deal to build ventilators.
After doing so, Trump reprised his criticisms of Whitmer — without mentioning her by name — during the White House’s coronavirus briefing, in which he said he directed Vice President Mike Pence to not call governors who aren’t “appreciative” of his efforts.
“I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’” Trump said. “You know what I say, if they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”
Trump ignited the war of words with Whitmer on Tuesday after she called on the federal government to provide more support during an MSNBC interview.
“Failing Michigan governor must work harder and be much more proactive. We are pushing her to get the job done,” Trump tweeted. “I stand with Michigan!”
Whitmer replied to Trump with a list of actions she has taken to protect Michigan residents, saying only “swift and clear guidance, tests, personal protective equipment, and resources” would solve the crisis, not attacks.
In a Fox News interview on Thursday, Trump stated he had a big problem with “a woman governor … from Michigan.”
“I mean, she’s not stepping up,” Trump told Fox host Sean Hannity. ”I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done. We send her a lot.”
Whitmer fired back at Trump on Twitter, continuing her calls for more medical supplies to help combat the virus.
“Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me,” she wrote. “I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it.”
Friday evening, hours before he signed the emergency order she’d repeatedly demanded, Trump gave the governor he previously refused to name a trademark nickname: Gretchen “Half” Whitmer.
Michigan has the fifth-most coronavirus cases of any state, with more than 3,600 confirmed cases and 92 deaths as of Saturday afternoon. The United States this week surpassed China to become the world leader in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Sen. Chris Murphy weighed in on the drama on Saturday, suggesting that Whitmer’s claim was akin to allegations made against Trump during his impeachment investigation that disbursement of aid was dependent upon personal favors being carried out for him.
“Michigan is the new Ukraine,” Murphy tweeted.
Republican governors, too, like Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, have broken with Trump’s response to the crisis.
Baker, whose state was also granted an emergency declaration by the White House on Saturday, has said Massachusetts will not be “up and running” by Easter, bucking Trump’s previous suggestion that the country could loosen social distancing guidelines by April 12.
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