Michigan governor says she has not spoken with Biden about VP role


DETROIT (Reuters) – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said on Tuesday she had not had any conversation with presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden about being his running mate in the 2020 election.

Whitmer, speaking in a live, online Washington Post interview, said she also had not supplied any documents to Biden or his team, though she added she does speak regularly with him.

“We’ve not had that conversation,” Whitmer said, adding she was not focused on politics now.

Whitmer, who has traded jabs with President Donald Trump, a Republican, about Michigan’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, is widely seen as a potential running mate for Biden and is co-chair of his campaign.

The 48-year-old governor, whose state has been one of those hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, has been called by Biden “one of the most talented people in the country.”

Michigan, which Trump narrowly won in 2016, is considered a crucial swing state in the November presidential election. Whitmer has said Michigan would begin reopening its economy on May 1, but has been criticized by some in the state for what they call her overly restrictive shutdown order.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, in a subsequent interview during the same Washington Post event, criticized Trump for tweets that he said had inflamed emotions and opened up the possibility of COVID-19 transmission by protesters who have gathered in several states around the country.

On Friday, Trump tweeted: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” along with similar tweets naming Minnesota and Virginia, other states with Democratic governors. Residents in several states who want their economies reopened have protested against what they describe as overly restrictive stay-at-home orders.

“I’m very disappointed with the rhetoric and messaging coming from the president,” Pritzker said of Trump’s tweets. “He’s fomenting protest.”

“I’m very concerned about what that might mean for the country if he keeps doing things like that,” added Pritzker, a Democrat.

“I know what he’s trying to do. It’s a political maneuver in the middle of a national emergency. He should stop it. It could lead to violence,” he said.

Whitmer on Tuesday called “unfortunate” a protest last week at the state Capitol in Lansing, given how many demonstrators failed to wear masks and gathered in groups.

However, asked if she would use police to prevent future protests, Whitmer said “throwing a number of people into jail is not a smart strategy” when trying to fight a pandemic.

Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis