Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is joining an increasing number of leaders in faulting President Trump for encouraging the violent insurrection that shook the Capitol -- and the nation -- on Jan. 6.
After a large mob of pro-Trump rioters stormed U.S. Capitol buildings during congressional meetings, forcing lawmakers to flee in search of safety, representatives are claiming the president’s rhetoric encouraged such behaviors among his supporters.
“Words have consequences. We have a leader in our White House who has been egging this on; who has been encouraging and excusing this. These same people (who) were threatening to kill me were who (Trump) tweeted are ‘very fine people I should negotiate with.’ And we didn’t hear anyone in the Republican establishment stand up and say ‘domestic terrorism will not stand,’” Whitmer said Thursday during an interview on MSNBC. “Now, we see some people standing up and I am glad that they are now, because whether I am the target, or Dr. Fauci, or the Secretary of State in Georgia or our whole Congress is -- it is wrong, it is anti-American and these people need to be held accountable.”
Throughout his term, President Trump has been accused of pushing hateful rhetoric in an effort to pit his supporters against Americans who do not support him, effectively dividing the nation. Specifically amid the election year, Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and that he won the election have done just that.
And on Wednesday, just before armed rioters breached the walls of sacred U.S. institutions, the president told his supporters that he will “never concede” to President-elect Biden, and that they must march on the Capitol...and they did.
Four people reportedly died amid the chaos on Jan. 6. One woman, a veteran and Trump supporter from California, was shot and killed inside the Capitol.
“People can come together and demonstrate, that is not in-and-of itself ‘domestic terrorism,’” Whitmer said Thursday. “What we saw last night, what we saw play out at my Capitol earlier last year, that’s scary -- that’s when people are trying to incite violence, intimidate one another, threaten one another’s safety.”
Whitmer is no novice to domestic terror threats carried out by far-right wing extremists. In October 2020, a group consisting primarily of Michigan residents plotted to kidnap and kill her over the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, the plot was foiled by law enforcement agencies -- but that doesn’t make their actions any less terrifying, especially for Whitmer and other elected officials.
“... I have checked in with my colleagues across the country and it’s not unique to Michigan -- we’ve seen it here firsthand, earlier, maybe, than most, and it’s been harder here, certainly for me, than some other governors -- but I’ve been checking with my colleagues and I know that this kind of incitement is encouraging this horrible behavior across our country, and that’s why we can’t turn a blind eye when it happens to one person,” Whitmer said. “Every one of us has a duty to call it what it is: These are domestic terrorists; they need to be held accountable. I am grateful to see people are taking this seriously and taking action now, but I only think about what would’ve happened if they would have (taken action) when it first started eight or nine months ago.”
Though legal action was taken against the individuals involved in the plot against Whitmer, no known action was taken by Trump’s Administration to ensure similar actions wouldn’t be taken in the future against Whitmer or other elected officials. In fact, during a campaign rally, Trump encouraged a crowd of his supporters chanting of Whitmer “lock her up” by saying smiling and saying “lock them all up.”
Gov. Whitmer had previously condemned Trump and the message he sends to Americans, supporters or not, encouraging defiance and distrust in national, and even global, institutions.
Whitmer’s Thursday comments come just after President-elect Biden announced key members appointed to his administration’s Justice Department, including Judge Merrick Garland nominated as Attorney General. The Michigan governor says she’s grateful that Biden and his new justice team are committed to following the Constitution and working for the people, not just one individual office holder.
“You can’t fan the flames of hatred and throw gas on them and then show up later with a bucket of water and pretend like you’ve been on the right side the whole time. No one buys it. Every one of us has to hold our leaders to a higher standard,” Whitmer said. “I think that’s what we will see in Merrick Garland; I know that’s what we will see in the Biden Administration. It shouldn’t be partisan. This is where the politics have totally perverted and changed our country and our democracy. We have to fix this and say, ‘This will not stand in the United States of America.’”
You can watch Whitmer’s Jan. 7 interview on MSNBC in the video player above.
President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday denounced the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorists” and he blamed President Donald Trump for the violence that has shaken the nation’s capital and beyond.
The riot by Trump supporters who breached the security of Congress on Wednesday was “not dissent, was not disorder, was not protest. It was chaos.”
Those who massed on Capitol Hill intending to disrupt a joint session of Congress that was certifying Biden’s election victory over Trump “weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob — insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic,” Biden said.
In solemn tones, Biden said the actions Trump has taken to subvert the nation’s democratic institutions throughout his presidency led directly to the mayhem in Washington.
“In the past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done,” Biden said. “He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”