Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chair ‘deeply troubled’ by Trump’s visit to Ford

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - 9:17pm

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File Photo/Daily

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced he would visit the Ford Rawsonville Components plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Trump’s visit is part of a tour to celebrate businesses that are creating personal protective equipment to help healthcare and essential workers. 

Wednesday evening, Jason Morgan, chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners in Ann Arbor, tweeted asking the president to reconsider travel to Michigan, citing that his visit could create more harm than good to the relief efforts. 

“I respect the office of the President and generally welcome the opportunity for you to learn about the needs of our community,” Morgan wrote. “I firmly believe that your recent inaccurate statements and actions cause greater uncertainty, division and harm to our residents.”

Morgan went on in his letter to say that while the president’s plans to visit Michigan have been formally announced by Ford, the White House has not been in touch with any local elected officials about the upcoming visit. 

“While this visit appears to be an official White House visit, there has been no outreach to our local officials regarding the visit,” Morgan said. “The absence of any official communication leads me to the conclusion that this must be a campaign stop. I am deeply troubled by the President of the United States visiting our community to campaign during a public health crisis.”

Morgan cited four of the administration’s recent inaccuracies announced on Twitter and at White House press briefings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our behavior in a situation such as this defines us, and we are committed to providing the leadership that does the right thing for those we serve,” Morgan said. “I ask that you change our rhetoric, commit to supporting our public health experts and duly elected leaders of the State of Michigan, encourage residents to stay home and stay safe, and prove the critical recourse necessary to directly support the state and local governments who've been on the front lines of this crisis.” 

Furthermore, Morgan explained the protocols surrounding official visits to the state in an interview and anticipates Trump’s visit to be a reflection of a campaign stop rather than a White House message. 

“Historically, (the president) would reach out to local elected officials in the community like the mayor of that community or somebody here locally on the ground,” Morgan said. “I think the president’s language and rhetoric tomorrow will determine whether that is a campaign message or a White House message.” 

Morgan told The Daily the reason he made his letter public was due to Trump’s tweet earlier Wednesday afternoon about withholding aid to the state over sending out vote-by-mail  applications earlier today. 

“I was deeply offended at his suggestion that he would hold up aid to the state of Michigan just because he wanted to and that's really disheartening to me,” Morgan said. “I felt the need to make a statement as the chief elected official in Washtenaw County.”

In an open letter to the president, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel asked the president to wear the proper personal protective equipment to comply with the guidance of Ford Motor Company and the governor’s executive order that remains in place until at least May 28. 

“I ask that while you are on tour you respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford - and across this State - by wearing a facial covering. It is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders. It is currently the law of this state,” Nessel wrote. “Anyone who has potentially been recently exposed, including the President of The United States, has not only a legal responsibility, but also a social and moral responsibility, to take reasonable precautions to prevent further spread of the virus.” 

According to The Blade, Michigan GOP co-chairman Laura Cox made a statement about the President’s upcoming visit. 

“‘(The president has) provided unprecedented aid to our state during this crisis,’ adding that ‘under his leadership, Michigan will play a key role in our nation's recovery’” Cox said. 

Former Vice President and 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden released a statement on the President's visit to Michigan on Thursday afternoon. 

"In times of crisis, leaders don’t drag their feet and they don’t politicize — they spring to action to secure needed relief. But in the wake of disaster, Donald Trump once again showed us who he is — threatening to pull federal funding and encouraging division," Biden said. "Michigan is in the fight of its life as it battles this pandemic and flooding disaster, and now more than ever, leadership and empathy matter. For the last three years, Donald Trump has turned his back on Michigan’s working families. His delayed, erratic, and corrupt response to the pandemic has been no different. In Donald Trump’s America, the wealthy and well-connected have gotten relief – while small business owners have too often seen their doors shutter."

This brief has been updated to include a statement from presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Summer News Editor Sarah Payne can be reached at paynesm@umich.edu.