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Fact Squad | Trump gets a lot wrong in Twitter beef with Michigan Gov. Whitmer

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to celebrate a recent court ruling invalidating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency powers, calling it a "BIG win" for the people of Michigan. 

But in the process, Trump made false claims about Whitmer’s emergency orders, calling on her to open schools and churches (they are open) and claiming auto companies are “pouring in and expanding” in Michigan (more true than untrue).

Whitmer, a Democrat, responded by urging Trump to "get to work,” suggesting "millions of hard working Americans are relying on” him for another COVID-19 relief package.

The Claim

The Facts
 

Whether Friday's state Supreme Court ruling is a "win" for the people of Michigan is in the eye of the beholder, but it was certainly a legal loss for Whitmer, who is a national co-chair of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Trump made two false claims about COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan when he implied churches and schools are closed. 

Churches were never forced to close in Michigan. Even early in the pandemic, when Whitmer locked down most of the state economy and limited crowd sizes, she exempted religious institutions from penalties, effectively allowing them to hold in-person services.

Likewise, Michigan schools are not closed under order from Whitmer. 

The governor closed schools in the spring by prohibiting in-person instruction, but she and the Republican-led Legislature negotiated a restart plan that now allows local school districts the choice of whether to offer in-person instruction. 

As of August, roughly 86 percent of Michigan districts were allowing students to learn in school buildings at least part of the week, a figure that has likely fluctuated some because of outbreak-prompted closures.

As for the claim about auto investments, Trump is mostly correct but also exaggerating. 

Michigan has had two major announcements during his administration: Fiat Chrysler is building its first new plant in Detroit in almost three decades and expanding other facilities, a $4.5 billion investment to create nearly 6,500 jobs. In 2018, Ford Motor Co. announced plans to renovate Michigan Central Depot in Detroit by 2022 and bring 5,000 employees to the city.

As for auto companies pouring in? 

Waymo, the electric car company linked to Google, is building a factory in the Detroit area. And Navya, a French company that builds driverless shuttles, reportedly plans to build a small facility in Saline. 

Still, through February, Michigan had lost 2,000 auto manufacturing jobs since Trump took office in 2017, according to federal data. 

Whitmer’s call to action, meanwhile, seems to suggest that Trump is to blame for stalled negotiations with congressional leadership about a second federal stimulus. 

That is debatable.

The president on Tuesday tweeted that he was suspending stimulus talks until after the election because of disputes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrat, he claimed, wants $2.4 trillion in federal spending but the White House would only go to $1.6 trillion. 

Despite walking away from the table, Trump continued to call for congressional action later Tuesday, urging the House and Senate to "IMMEDIATELY APPROVE" a small business loan program extension and funding for struggling airlines.

"If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY," Trump tweeted. "I am ready to sign right now."

House Democrats in May approved a $3 trillion coronavirus spending package despite clear indications the GOP-led Senate would not take it up and instead pursue something smaller. 

Pelosi on Tuesday called Trump's decision to suspend negotiations an "act of desperation" that put “himself first at the expense of the country."

The Conclusion

Don't get your news from Twitter. 

The president, in particular, is quick to fire off tweets without checking facts. His Wednesday tweets blended one fact with a few fictions to exaggerate ongoing COVID-19 restrictions under Whitmer.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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