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Trump talks autoworkers, legal troubles at Michigan campaign stop

Donald Trump Oakland Co. campaign rally Feb. 17, 2024
Colin Jackson/MPRN
Donald Trump Oakland Co. campaign rally Feb. 17, 2024

Trump’s visit to Michigan coincided with the first day of early primary voting in the state

Auto workers, legal troubles, and culture war issues all appeared during an Oakland County campaign stop from former President Donald Trump on Saturday.

Trump opened the speech encouraging voters to vote in Michigan’s presidential primary election before quickly turning to a recent $355 million fine levied against him in a fraud case in New York. It’s one of several legal troubles facing the former president.

He also faces racketeering charges in Georgia for his attempts to sway election officials to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and federal charges for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

During his speech, Trump was careful to portray any attacks against him as attacks against his supporters as well.

“The judges and prosecutors that were dealing with me are essentially all the same,” Trump said. “These are Democrats that definitely hate me. They hate you too, I hate to tell you.”

Trump has the best chance at winning the state’s presidential primary and the delegates to the Republican National Convention that come along with victory.

Outside the venue, campaigns for various offices had put up signs and were distributing literature. A digital billboard truck for one of Trump’s primary competitors, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley read, “It’s time to start winning without Trump.”

But it appears that message may have fallen flat with those waiting in the cold to see Trump.

Janice Haas was among those in the hours-long line to enter the Oakland County Airport hangar where Trump spoke.

“When he first ran, I wanted him because he wasn’t a politician, he was a businessman. Ultimately, that’s what this country is, is a business and he did damn well running it,” Haas said.

Trump’s visit to Michigan coincided with the first day of early primary voting in the state.

This year, Republicans will choose who receives Michigan’s convention delegates via a hybrid primary-caucus model, with a centralized caucus taking place in early March.

But Pete Hoekstra, who recently received recognition as state Republican party chair by the national party, said the location of that caucus is up in the air.

It was scheduled to be at Huntington Place in Detroit.

“I haven’t seen a contract for the Huntington Place so I don’t know what our commitment there is. We just got to get some more information then we will finalize a decision,” Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra said an issue is competing party leadership -- Kristina Karamo still has control of the party’s finances. Karamo, who won the party’s chair race a year ago, has called meetings where some party state committee members voted to remove her and replace her with Hoekstra illegitimate.

That issue is currently before the courts.

Regardless of how the internal party dispute plays out, Michigan will likely play a vital role in the race for the White House.

Trump made that clear BY spending a chunk of his speech making direct pitches to autoworkers.

Trump pledged to keep production domestic, while criticizing a recent deal struck between the United Auto Workers union and the Detroit Three car companies as shortsighted.

“You’re getting nice wages for a short period of time but you’re going to be out of jobs in two years,” Trump told the crowd.

The UAW has endorsed incumbent President Joe Biden for the 2024 race.

Speaking at a press conference Friday alongside some Michigan Democrats, UAW Region 1 Director Lashawn English said the union has flourished under Biden, not Trump.

"Trump has shown US he doesn’t care about organized labor. He doesn’t care about unions,” English said.


Trump did not elaborate on his alleged private support for a 16-week abortion ban or his public comments about encouraging Russia to attack NATO allies that have not fulfilled their defense spending agreements.

Each of those stances has led to harsh criticisms from Democrats, who accuse Trump of stoking fear and division within the country.

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