Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out President Donald Trump on Sunday for incendiary comments he made about her during a weekend campaign rally, saying the President’s heightened rhetoric just days after authorities foiled a plot by extremists to kidnap her is “inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.”
But as Whitmer, a Democrat, pleaded with Trump to “bring down the heat,” the President’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump described the President’s calls to jail the governor as him “having fun,” during an interview with CNN on Sunday.
“You know, it’s incredibly disturbing that the President of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me, 10 days after that was uncovered, the President is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism,” Whitmer said in an interview on NBC.
“It is wrong. It’s got to end. It is dangerous, not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans. People of goodwill on both sides of the aisle need to step up and call this out and bring the heat down,” she added.
During a rally Saturday in Michigan, Trump accused Whitmer, whom he has previously called “a dictator,” of unnecessarily locking down her state as she fought the coronavirus pandemic. That led his crowd to break into a chant of “Lock her up!” a little more than a week after federal authorities revealed a plot by extremists to kidnap Whitmer and overthrow the government.
Rather than condemning the derailed plot — which led to terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against more than a dozen men — or discouraging that kind of divisive language, Trump responded to the cheer by saying, “Lock them all up” — drawing on his authoritarian rhetoric about jailing his political opponents by adding Hillary Clinton and the Biden family into the mix.
Asked about the chants by CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union, Lara Trump, who serves as a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, downplayed the comments and dismissed concerns about their potential impact.
“Well, look, he wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all,” she said, referring to Whitmer. “He was having fun at a Trump rally.”
During his rally Saturday, Trump also complained that Whitmer said publicly that his refusal to denounce White supremacists, extremists and hate groups has emboldened activists like those who allegedly planned the foiled attack against her.
“I guess they said she was threatened, right?” Trump said, seeming to doubt the specifics of the case and underplaying the violence it could have entailed. “She was threatened, and she blamed me — she blamed me, and our people were the ones that worked with her people, so let’s see what happens.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware called Lara Trump’s comments “troubling” during an appearance on “State of the Union” later Sunday, telling Tapper that the President’s language creates a clear contrast between him and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“If that means that for our President ‘fun’ is fueling division and encouraging folks to say and do things that are threatening and completely inappropriate, well that’s a reminder of what kind of president we currently have, in sharp contrast to Joe Biden, someone who can and will bring our country together,” Coons said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also criticized Trump for his rally comments, saying in an interview with ABC on Sunday that he was being “irresponsible” with his rhetoric.
“The President has to realize the words of the president of the United States weigh a ton. And in that political dialogue, to inject fear tactics into it, especially (about) a woman governor and her family, is so irresponsible,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Louisiana Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow Dead From COVID-19
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Luke Letlow, Louisiana’s incoming Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19 only days before being sworn into office. He was 41.
Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch confirmed the congressman-elect’s death at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport.
“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” Bautsch said in a statement. “A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.”
Louisiana’s eight-member congressional delegation called Letlow’s death devastating.
“Luke had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our nation,” they said in a statement.
The state’s newest congressman, set to take office in January, was admitted to a Monroe hospital on Dec. 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus disease. He was later transferred to the Shreveport facility and placed in intensive care.
Letlow, from the small town of Start in Richland Parish, was elected in a December runoff election for the 5th District U.S. House seat representing central and northeastern regions of the state, including the cities of Monroe and Alexandria.
He was to fill the seat being vacated by his boss, Republican Ralph Abraham. Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff and ran with Abraham’s backing for the job.
Gov. John Bel Edwards urged people to pray for Letlow’s family.
“COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”
Before working for Abraham, Letlow had worked for former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Jindal’s one-time chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, described Letlow on Twitter as “a good man with a kind heart and a passion to serve. He loved Louisiana and his family. He was a brother and I’m heart broken he’s gone.”
Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two children.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican and doctor who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year and has since recovered, posted in a Twitter video: “It just, just, just, just brings home COVID can kill. For most folks it doesn’t, but it truly can. So, as you remember Luke, his widow, his children in your prayers, remember as well to be careful with COVID.”
Oklahoma Health Officials Reject CDC Vaccine Recommendation
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma health officials say they don’t plan to follow all of the newly released federal guidelines for vaccine distribution and will keep adults 65 and older in phase two of the state’s distribution protocol.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines over the weekend to prioritize those aged 75 and older and frontline essential workers in phase two. But Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in a statement late Wednesday that the state’s advisory committee decided it would be problematic to prioritize young and healthy workers ahead of Oklahomans in the 65-74 age group.
Along with adults 65 and older, the state also plans to prioritize adults of any age with comorbidities, including hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers or chronic lung, liver or renal diseases. The state estimates there are about 635,000 Oklahomans in these two categories.
Frye says health officials plan to closely monitor the state’s vaccine supply and could consider prioritizing those age 75 and older if supplies and provider access remains limited.
First Coronavirus Vaccine US Shipments Expected To Arrive Monday December 14th
(Washington Post) — Hospitals that have spent months seeking a silver bullet against a virus that has killed more than 295,000 people in the United States will begin receiving shipments of the first coronavirus vaccine on Monday, U.S. officials said, comparing the start of distribution this weekend to the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
Saturday, said the four-star Army general overseeing vaccine rollout, was “D-Day,” following the Food and Drug Administration’s Friday-night clearance for emergency use of the two-dose regimen developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.
“D-Day was a pivotal turning point in World War II; it was the beginning of the end,” said the general, Gustave Perna, who is chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership speeding the development of vaccines and therapeutics. “D-Day was the beginning of the end, and that’s where we are today.”
The initial distribution of 2.9 million doses, a sliver of what was initially anticipated and intended only for health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, will arrive at hospitals battling climbing case counts and mounting deaths. Immunization in its early phases will not curtail intensifying outbreaks, experts cautioned, underscoring the need for continued public-health precautions.
But the vaccine’s clearance on Friday night from the FDA, followed by backing on Saturday from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group, set into motion one of one of the most complicated logistical missions in U.S. history, marking a new phase of the pandemic. The vaccine, which must be stored at ultracold temperatures, is being sent nationwide by plane and guarded truck.
“It’s a hugely important step,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Saturday as the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older.
Members of the committee stressed that the vaccine, while developed in record time, had moved transparently through all required regulatory channels. They also expressed alarm about the lack of resources available to state and local authorities to carry out vaccination, in contrast to the billions in taxpayer dollars devoted to quickening the vaccine’s rollout.
As experts gave final sign-off, boxes were being packed and loaded with the vaccine, Perna said. The cargo would begin moving Sunday morning from Pfizer’s manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., to FedEx and UPS hubs nationwide, he said.
Vaccine, he predicted, would arrive at 145 sites, mostly large hospital systems, on Monday, with another 425 sites receiving supply on Tuesday. The final 66 of the 636 locations poised to receive doses in the first round of Pfizer shipments would receive their supply on Wednesday, Perna said.
The general made clear that earlier-than-anticipated clearance from federal regulators, which took place late Friday instead of Saturday after pressure from the White House, did not alter the timetable for the distribution or actual administration of the shots. Delivery, he said, must occur when “professionals are available to receive it, and then eventually administer it,” making Monday the anticipated target.
Top FDA officials took steps on Saturday to assure the public that the vaccine was safe, that its clearance was not driven by politics and that health care sites would be equipped in the event of a rare allergic reaction observed among two British health care workers with a history of severe reactions.
Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, told reporters he would get the vaccine as soon as he was eligible for it, denying, as he did on Friday, that his job had been threatened over the timing of the vaccine’s approval. Asked about the possibility of allergic reactions, Peter Marks, director of the agency’s division that regulates vaccines, said officials had examined possible side effects and concluded that people should be vaccinated unless they have had a severe reaction to one of the vaccine’s components.
The initial shipments include only the first shot in a two-dose regimen for some of the nation’s most at-risk people, with another 2.9 million doses set for distribution 21 days later. According to CDC recommendations, the nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities should receive the vaccine first. With a second vaccine from Moderna expected to gain approval from the FDA soon, as many as 40 million doses could be delivered by the end of the year — enough to vaccinate the CDC’s first priority group. Additional vaccines are in late-stage trials.
Health care workers, who have been prioritized because of their exposure to the virus and critical role in sustaining the nation’s strained health care system, will begin receiving the shots within days. Each hospital system is moving on a slightly different timetable, depending on resources and staffing needs, with many saying vaccination would not begin until Wednesday. Some medical centers were independently reviewing the vaccine data to double-check the FDA’s decision.
Inoculation at long-term care facilities could begin by the end of the week, Perna said. Separate kits with needles and alcohol wipes are being shipped so as to sync up with vaccine batches at each site, underscoring the complex choreography of the operation.
Perna tempered his confidence with an acknowledgment of the challenges involved in a mass vaccination campaign against a rampaging virus, with limited supplies initially available for a country of 330 million people eager to return to normal.