LANSING, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should “give a little” and “put out the fire” a day after hundreds of conservative demonstrators, some with assault weapons, protested at the state Capitol against stay-at-home restrictions she imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democratic governor, in a tweet, responded with a video of former first lady Michelle Obama stating: “Our motto is: ‘When they go low we go high.’”
Whitmer late Thursday issued directives both proclaiming that the COVID-19 emergency continues and declaring new states of emergency and disaster after the Republican-controlled Legislature refused her request for a 28-day extension. The declarations are the foundation of her stay-home order and other measures to curb the spread of the virus.
GOP lawmakers, who want more input on gradually restarting the economy, also voted to authorize a lawsuit challenging her authority and actions. Whitmer in the past week let some businesses reopen and announced that commercial and residential construction can resume next week.
Trump encouraged Whitmer to “make a deal” with protesters calling her to reopen the state, attempting to strike a balance between supporting demonstrators who expressed affinity for him and minding the advice of his scientific experts.
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump said. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway said Trump was offering Whitmer assistance in opening the state.
“Here he’s weighed in and said to the governor, ’Hey I think it’s time, it’s May 1, to take a look at maybe reopening pieces of the Michigan economy and we’re here to help you do that,” she told reporters at the White House.
Some protesters — many without face coverings — entered the Capitol on Thursday and demanded to be let onto the House floor, which is not allowed. The gallery was closed to the public to allow room for representatives and reporters to spread apart. Some demonstrators in the Senate gallery were openly carrying guns, which is legal in the Statehouse. One senator said some armed men shouted at her, and some senators wore bulletproof vests.
Trump has tried to previously pressure the first-term governor, who leads a battleground state and is on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate list.
Whitmer said Thursday that defeating COVID-19 is an “all hands on deck moment,” and she was hopeful Republican legislators “will stop the partisan games and start working with me to re-engage our economy safely and responsibly.”