President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE's daughter-in-law, Lara TrumpLara TrumpJan. 6 organizers used burner phones to communicate with White House: report Past criticism of Trump becomes potent weapon in GOP primaries Trump endorsement shakes up GOP Senate primary in NC MORE, defended him on Sunday after he drew criticism over “lock her up” chants his crowd directed toward Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerWhitmer leading possible GOP challengers in Michigan governor race: poll Whitmer isolating after husband's positive COVID-19 test Seven most vulnerable governors facing reelection in 2022 MORE (D) at his rally the night before.
The president told attendees, “You gotta get your governor to open up your state, OK? And get your schools open. Get your schools open. The schools have to be open, right?”
Some of the audience in Muskegon, Mich., began chants of “lock her up” not long after. Moments later, as the chants continued, President Trump responded, “Lock ‘em all up.”
The rally came about a week and a half after the FBI said it foiled a plot by a militia group that planned to abduct the governor.
The President mentions the Governor of Michigan, the crowd chants lock her up, and the President says lock them all up pic.twitter.com/9wuB7blnoP— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) October 17, 2020
During her appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, Lara Trump, a senior campaign advisor to the president who is also married to his son Eric, was pressed by host Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperSunday shows - Voting rights legislation dominates Texas Republican: FBI probe into synagogue hostage taker spreads to London, Tel Aviv GOP senator knocks Biden for 'spreading things that are untrue' in voting rights speech MORE about the rhetoric.
“Don’t you think that the president should tone it down when talking about people about whom there have literally threats against their lives in this very, very heightened time?” Tapper asked.
“Well, gosh. I would like to show people my social media and the threats against me, the threats against my children when you have members of, you know, the Democrat Party coming out and telling people, ‘Get in their face. Go harass them.’ This is not just on one side, Jake,” she responded.
“Look, anything against you or your family or your children is horrible, detestable, and I condemn it right now,” Tapper said. “And if there were any Democratic politicians that were, you know, throwing fuel on the fire, I would say, 'Tone it down.' Why aren’t you toning it down?”
“But I don’t look at threats based on what party are the recipients,” he continued. “My question is, shouldn’t everybody just tone it down, including your father-in-law?”
“He wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all. He was having fun at a Trump rally, and, quite frankly, there are bigger issues than this right now for everyday Americans,” Lara Trump responded, saying that “people want to get the country reopened” and “they want to get back to work.”
“There are issues at hand here that are bigger than just keeping everybody locked down. So, I think people are frustrated, and, look, the president was at a rally. It’s a fun, light atmosphere. Of course he wasn’t encouraging people to threaten this woman. That’s ridiculous,” she added.
“Well, I don’t think 'lock her up' is fun. But let’s move on,” Tapper said before continuing the interview.
Whitmer criticized Trump on Twitter late Saturday.
“This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans. It needs to stop,” she said.
Tori Saylor, the governor’s deputy digital director, also addressed the rally in a tweet Saturday evening that has since gone viral.
“I see everything that is said about and to her online. Every single time the President does this at a rally, the violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media. It has to stop. It just has to,” she said.
Shortly after the FBI released information regarding the plot by a militia group targeting Whitmer earlier this month, the governor said the president's refusal "to condemn white supremacist and hate groups" at the first presidential debate weeks back served as "as a rallying cry, as a call to action" for such groups.
"Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacist and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups," she said then. "Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit."
Thirteen people identified as members of a militia group have been charged in connection with the kidnapping plot.