Trump says he will push for legislation to imprison flag burners

By: - November 1, 2020 1:59 pm

President Donald J. Trump waves as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, and en route to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pa. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour via Flickr Public Domain

President Donald Trump said at a rally in Macomb County on Sunday that he would fight “very hard” for legislation to make burning the American flag a crime punishable with one year in prison if reelected.

“I say that Congress, and I’m going to do very hard for this because we have to go through a big deal, but I say when somebody burns the American flag they should go to jail for one year,” Trump said in Washington Township.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that burning a flag is symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Trump said that he wanted to implement the punishment via an executive order. Banning flag burning would require either a new Supreme Court decision to overturn existing precedent or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I thought I could just, like, institute it and maybe do an executive order, they go ‘oh, you can’t do that, sir,’ has to go through a whole big deal,” Trump said. “We’re going to get some of our congressmen and women, and we’re going to put in, we’re going to put in legislation … you burn the American flag, you go to jail for one year. It’s very simple. I like it.”

A proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag burning previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but narrowly failed in the Senate in a 2006 vote.

Rep. Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) cheers for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with Supreme Court Justice David Viviano during a campaign rally at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater November 6, 2016 in Sterling Heights, Michigan. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Trump spoke on a snowy Sunday to a raucous crowd in Macomb County, just as he did right before his 2016 win. He posted big numbers in the metro Detroit county, which proved critical, as he won by 10,704 votes.

The Republican again attacked Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was recently the subject of a foiled plot to kidnap and possibly kill her, during the rally.

“Your governor is not doing a good job. She is not doing a good job,” Trump said. “Your state is, like, locked down, and it’s your governor.”

Michigan has not had a stay-home order since June, and most businesses are already allowed to re-open. 

Trump touted a conspiracy theory that the state would be reopened on Nov. 4, but also claimed that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would lockdown the country so that “you will be living in a prison state.” At the last debate and at a Lansing rally earlier this week, Trump falsely claimed that Michigan already was “like a prison.”

The audience at the rally led a chant of “lock her up” aimed at Whitmer, which has broken out at Trump’s last four rallies in Michigan since federal and state law enforcement plot was announced arrests for the alleged plot in October.

“I didn’t do anything. Well they said with your governor, every time I mention her name they say the same thing. They say, ‘he’s inciting.’ I’m inciting,” Trump said.

Trump attacked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) during the rally, as he has at previous rallies in the state, predicting that she would propel him to victory in Minnesota.

Trump cited a video from the right-wing group Project Veritas that claims Omar is connected to a ballot harvesting scheme, which fact-checkers say is unfounded.

“I heard she ballot harvested, didn’t she? So where is our Justice Department?” Trump said. “She ballot — everybody’s telling me stories, we have a great writer in Minnesota, and he writes stories about her, and nothing ever happens to her. Ilhan Omar, she’s harvesting ballots. It’s illegal, right? They have a story. So where the hell, why aren’t they looking at her?”

Omar is one of four progressive women of color who make up “the Squad” in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks as Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) listen during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. | Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Trump also attacked U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), another member of the Squad, suggesting that she stole money from her campaign, without evidence.

“So why aren’t they looking at her?” Trump said. “The Justice Department, they should be looking at her.”

Trump addressed the rallies that former President Barack Obama held with Biden in Flint and Detroit yesterday.

“His new deal is his sunglasses. He was very agitated, right?” Trump said. “Then you’d have like two cars, ‘honk, honk.’ We have more in the 10 feet of the front row than he had yesterday. And I hate to say it, Obama doesn’t draw any better.”

The Biden campaign has limited attendance at their events in an effort to implement social distancing to make the spread of COVID-19 at the events less likely.

There were 179 vehicles of supporters at the Flint event and 450 vehicles at the Detroit event, per pool reports.

Biden said in a statement that “President Trump’s bungling of this pandemic has cost Michiganders their jobs and their lives – and with Trump in charge, there is no end in sight. His own chief of staff [Mark Meadows] admitted that the Trump Administration has simply given up on trying to control the pandemic. And now, instead of implementing a plan to get the virus under control, President Trump has resorted to blaming doctors for inflating the number of COVID-19 cases.”

More than 9.1 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 231,000 have died of the virus. In Michigan, there are 178,180 total cases and 7,340 residents have died from the virus.

Trump was previously in Michigan on Friday for a rally in Waterford Township and will be back in the state for rallies in Traverse City and Grand Rapids on Monday.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Flint drive-in rally with former President Barack Obama, Oct. 31, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Actors Kerry Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha will campaign on behalf of Biden in Detroit and Oakland County on Monday.

More than 2.6 million Michigan residents had already returned absentee ballots as of Friday morning. That’s nearly half of the 5.08 million total ballots cast in the 2008 presidential election when Obama was first elected – which had the highest turnout in Michigan history.

More than 3.3 million Michigan residents have requested absentee ballots, meaning there’s about 700,00 that have yet to be returned.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has warned that voters should return their absentee ballots to a drop box or directly to their local clerk due to delays in the U.S. Postal Service meaning they may not arrive on time to be counted if mailed.

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a regular contributor to the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.