Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday slammed President Donald Trump’s claim that he can withhold federal aid from Michigan, as he’s threatened to do, as “completely illegal” and promised that Michigan voters would remember the threat when they head the polls in November.
“If right now he decides that for political reasons he wants to withhold money from our state, I can promise you Michiganders will remember this come November,” Nessel, a Democrat, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
Nessel said “there is no sound legal basis" for Trump to withhold federal aid from Michigan, but acknowledged that hasn’t stopped the president in the past.
“But unfortunately we've seen him do that before, even when Congress had appropriately appropriated money," Nessel said. "And we saw this, of course, with Ukraine. And I would say that him withholding money from Michigan is really not any different in terms of the illegality of him taking that measure.”
“I guess the difference between the Ukrainians and Michiganders is that we actually vote in the presidential election,” Nessel said.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he “will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” and said, falsely, that Michigan was sending "absentee ballots" to 7.7 million voters.
Trump said the move was done “illegally and without authorization from a rogue secretary of state." The president later corrected his tweet to refer to absentee ballot "applications."
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, also a Democrat, had said Tuesday that all registered voters in the state will be mailed applications for absentee ballots for the elections in August and November — not the absentee ballots themselves.
Trump later walked back his comments, telling reporters he didn't think it would be necessary to withhold funding from Michigan.
On Thursday, Trump told reporters that "we don’t want them to do mail-in ballots because it’s going to lead to total election fraud" but sidestepped questions about his threat to cut funding to the state.
Later Thursday, Trump was scheduled to visit a factory near Detroit that has been repurposed to manufacture ventilators. Nessel has written a public letter to Trump demanding he wear a face mask during his visit. Trump has so far refused to wear a face mask during public events and has not said whether he will wear one during his Michigan visit.