More than 50 people showed up to Avery's Tavern in Rochester Hills Monday night to attend a meeting hosted by the Michigan Trump Republicans, intended to train supporters of President Donald Trump on how to most effectively promote his agenda and win his reelection in 2020. The Oakland County stop was the first of several the organization has planned this summer throughout the lower peninsula.
At the meeting, as well as on the organization's website, organizers emphasized the amount of opposition Trump faces, saying it was their duty to defend him.
"Learn how you can get involved to help fight back against the fake news and the establishment that wants to bring down our great President," the website reads. "At our meetings you will hear the most current talking points directly from the White House that will embolden you to speak up and defend President Trump!"
The event was run by Meshawn Maddock and Diane Schindlbeck, who both served as delegates to the Republican National Convention last year. Both have been vocal supporters and organizers for the Trump campaign and administration in Michigan. Schindlbeck said one of their main challenges as organizers was figuring out what message to promote.
"After November came, people still looked to Meshawn and I, as leaders throughout our own community and throughout the state, wanting to know, 'What do you think Trump's doing today? Was that a good choice? Was that a bad choice?’ " she said. "So Meshawn and I would sit back and we'd say, 'Gosh, we believe this is what Trump is wanting us to say and what Trump is wanting us to do, but how do we truly get his real message out there?' "
According to Schindlbeck, though, that task became easier when they were contacted by a "regional director" from the White House.
"This gentleman called us, and he said that he appreciates our efforts throughout the campaign, and he would like us to be a part of a team here in Michigan and to be the eyes and ears on the ground," she said. "Every day we receive an update on what's Trump's agenda for the day and great things he has been doing with his administration. And it's our job to get that out to you."
Though Maddock said she hoped to bring the regional director to meet with Trump supporters in Michigan soon, she said she was not at liberty to disclose his name or any other information about him.
Glenn Clark, a District Chair for what was formerly Michigan's 9th Congressional District and Republican precinct delegate from Troy, told the audience they had to be willing to engage in open forums in left-leaning media outlets to spread Trump's message and asking them to become "Trump first responders."
"What does the left always do without regard for anything else?" he said. "They always push their agenda. So I don't care if it's Mitch Albom in the afternoon. I just listened to him today — he said some cockamamie things. Guess what — it's good to be on his show, call in and say, 'I'm sorry, Mitch. You're wrong. Here's why.' "
Maddock didn't express the same level of faith in the media, however. Dismissing criticism of Trump as fake news, she advised the audience to carry "Trump training cards" she had made, containing talking points on Trump's agenda.
"Does anybody ever get frustrated — you're standing in line at Walmart, and the guy behind you is complaining about something Trump just did?" she said. "And it's all fake news. This is the way to combat fake news."
Maddock's husband Matt Maddock, who unsuccessfully ran for Michigan state senate in 2014 and is considering a run for state office in 2018, also spoke at the meeting, said Trump supporters would have to fight back attacks from within their own party to secure Trump's reelection in 2020. Emphasizing the importance of electing Trump supporters as precinct delegates, he asked how many there were in the audience — about 20 hands shot up.
"There are unfortunately a lot of Republicans within our own party that are gonna be working behind the scenes to put up a challenger against President Trump in 2020," he said. "Remember, we have an electoral college. The delegates are the people that are in charge of that whole process. And the more Trump Republicans we get as delegates, the better chance we're gonna have to hold strong in 2020 to combat this attack that's gonna be coming toward Trump."
The last person to speak at the meeting was Jarvis Williams, a volunteer with Secure Michigan, a political organization dedicated to opposing refugee resettlement in Michigan. Handing out cards that read "I'm a Shariaphobe," Williams said the organization was opposed to Sharia law rather than Muslim people.
"We are involved in the educational process here to help Trump ultimately reduce the amount of people coming into our country that we call Sharia," he said. "If you fall back on the comments that are made in the press today, and you make any comment about Islam or Muslims, you're an Islamophobe. Even a good Muslim has a hard time standing up for Sharia."
After the words "good Muslim," however, a member of the audience interjected, "There's no such thing!"