Advance Notice: Briefs

Trump DOJ sides with businesses opposing Whitmer’s COVID-19 orders

By: - May 30, 2020 5:45 am

President Donald J. Trump holds the newly signed executive order on the Commission on Law enforcement and the Administration of Justice Monday, Oct. 28, 2019 while posing with Law enforcement and Attorney General William Barr at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference and Exposition at the McCormick Place Convention Center Chicago in Chicago. | Official White House Photo: Shealah Craighead via Flickr Public Domain

After President Donald Trump has railed against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home order with his “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” tweet in April, his Department of Justice (DOJ) has backed a lawsuit against her emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement of interest, the DOJ called the Democratic governor’s measures “arbitrary” and “irrational.” Michigan has been one of the hardest-hit states in the crisis, with 56,621 cases and 5,406 deaths as of Friday.

The DOJ has backed suits opposing restrictions in other states, as well, including Illinois and California, which both have Democratic governors who have imposed strict restrictions to fight COVID-19.

While the DOJ is traditionally independent from the president, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has worked closely with Trump, like over the president’s threats to Ukraine that led to his eventual impeachment in December. In September 2019, the Associated Press noted that Trump often “blurs lines between personal lawyer [and] attorney general.”

Trump has said repeatedly he wants the economy “reopened,” but faces limits as to what he can do “particularly in states not governed by allies of the president,” the “DOJ’s actions suggest it is increasingly willing to help the president find ways around this limitation.”

The case filed in U.S. District Court for the Western Division is Signature Sotherby’s International Realty Inc. et. al v. Whitmer. The other six businesses suing Whitmer are: Executive Property Maintenance, Intraco Corporation, Inc., Casite Intraco LLC, Hillsdale Jewelers, Shortt Dental; and Midwest Carwash Association.

Several lawsuits have been filed against Whitmer’s emergency orders, including a state suit by the Legislature, which Democratic caucuses oppose. Republican leaders lost in the Court of Claims but have appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.