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Michigan Governor Claims Federal Government Told Vendors ‘Not to Send Stuff Here’

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) suggested Friday that President Donald Trump was too busy trashing her on Sean Hannity’s Fox News broadcast Thursday night to take her call about her state’s need for COVID-19 medical supplies. Whitmer also said someone — we’re not sure who — was interfering with Michigan’s ability to order supplies on its own:

We need assistance.  When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves, we started procuring every item we could get our hands on.  But, what I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan. It’s really concerning.  I reached out to the White House last night, asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the same time all this other stuff was going on.  The fact of the matter remains:  we need help, and at the very least, we don’t need people standing in our way of getting it.

LISTEN to the governor’s remarks in the player above.

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer Friday evening, Whitmer said that a state-led “patchwork” attempt to secure medical equipment was prone to — and was indeed causing — trouble.  “We’ve entered into a number of contracts, and as we are getting closer to the date when shipments are supposed to come in, they’re getting cancelled or they’re getting delayed.  We’re being told they’re going first to the federal government,” Whitmer said of the supplies.  She added that other local governments (such as Massachusetts and Los Angeles) were experiencing similar issues. “We are bidding against one another other . . . we are struggling to grab every PPE we get our hands on,” she said.

It was unclear who told the vendors not to send equipment and supplies, but the conversation on WWJ-AM, a Detroit news radio station, came after the hosts asked Whitmer to respond to comments Trump made Thursday evening on Hannity. Trump attacked Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) first while completely mischaracterizing a federal law which requires his administration to keep a stockpile of medical supplies “appropriate and practicable” to “provide for and optimize the emergency health security of the United States” during an emergency.  (Law&Crime previously discussed that law here.)

“We’re really a second line of attack.  The first line of attack is supposed to be the hospitals and the local government and the states, the states themselves,” Trump said. “We have people like Governor Insley — he should be doing more!  He shouldn’t be relying on the federal government . . . he was a failed presidential candidate and, you know, he’s always complaining.”

“You have to understand, this has to be managed by local government and by the governors, it can’t be managed by the federal government,” Trump later said.

(Again, federal law requires the federal government to manage the so-called “strategic national stockpile” of medical supplies.  Trump vaguely referenced the stockpile without naming it by saying there was a “broken chain” of “monster warehouses” and that he was “filling it up very strongly.)

From there, Trump shifted his attention to Gov. Whitmer: “Your governor of Michigan, I mean, she’s not stepping up, 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. And we send her a lot. Now she wants a declaration of emergency, and we’ll have to make a decision on that.”

Trump, perhaps realizing that Michigan gave him an electoral college win in 2016 but in 2018 elected a Democrat as governor, backed things up: “Michigan is a very important state; I love the people of Michigan, what they do.  I’m bringing many, many car factories into Michigan, and she is a new governor, and it’s not been pleasant.”  Whitmer took office on January 1, 2019.

“The federal preparation was concerning,” Whitmer said on the radio Friday. “All of our focus needs to be on COVID-19, right now, right here, and so I need partnership [from] the federal government … we have to be all hands on deck here.” Whitmer said she refused to engage in personal attacks and praised Vice President Mike Pence for working amiably with her.

On Fox News, Trump went back to complain about Insley but circled again to Whitmer. “We’ve had a big problem with, uh, the young — a woman governor — from — you know who I’m talking about — from Michigan,” said the president. Whitmer, speaking on the radio the next day, said she was being “uniquely singled out” among a chorus of complaining governors who are displeased with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It remains unclear who, precisely, the governor was referencing on the radio as attempting to stymie her ability to procure medical equipment. “The governor’s office could not provide any additional information Friday afternoon substantiating Whitmer’s allegation,” reported Crain’s Detroit Business. Crain’s was also not able to determine from the governor’s office the names of any vendors who backed out of helping the state.  The governor’s office did tell Crain’s that Michigan needed 400,000 masks each day for at least the next several weeks to keep up with demand.

[Featured image by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.]

[Editor’s Note:  This piece has been updated to include additional comments from Gov. Whitmer’s CNN appearance Friday and to include a link to that appearance.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is the anchor and executive producer of The Daily Debrief on the Law&Crime Network.  The broadcast is a recap of the day's most compelling trials and court proceedings.  DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.