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Trump senior campaign adviser Lara Trump defended President Trump's rhetoric about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), claiming that he was "having fun at a Trump rally" when encouraging "lock her up" chants.

Why it matters: Whitmer, who has faced criticism for her strict lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, was the target of a kidnapping plot by anti-government militia groups. The president has continued to demand that Whitmer lift COVID restrictions, calling her a "dictator."

  • The governor's deputy digital director tweeted on Saturday that every time Trump attacks her at a rally, the "violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media."
  • Whitmer herself has said that Trump's rhetoric puts her and her family's lives in danger, accusing the president of "stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division."

What she's saying: "Well, look, he wasn't doing anything, I don't think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all. He was having fun at a Trump rally. And quite frankly, there are bigger issues than this right now for everyday Americans," Lara Trump said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

  • "People want to get the country reopened. They want to get back to work. Not only are we trying to make it through a pandemic, but think about all of the cancers that have gone unaddressed. Think about the kids that aren't in school who use school to get their one meal a day."
  • "There are issues at hand here that are bigger than just keeping everyone locked down. ... The president was at a rally. It's a fun, light atmosphere. Of course, he wasn't encouraging people to threaten this woman. That's ridiculous."

The other side: Whitmer reacted to Trump's comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" later on Sunday, saying: "It's dangerous, not just for me and my family but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans. People of goodwill on both sides of the aisle need to step up and call this out and bring the heat down."

  • She also clarified that Michigan hasn't had a stay-at-home order since late spring, despite Trump's comments demanding an end to "lockdowns."

Go deeper

Off the Rails

A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

President Trump was almost shouting. He directed his son-in-law and his senior strategist from his private quarters at the White House late on election night. He barked out the names of top Fox News executives and talent he expected to answer to him.

Off the Rails

Descent into madness

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Updated 8 mins ago - Sports

IOC: Belarus sprinter who sought refuge in Tokyo "safe"

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus in 2019. Photo: Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought refuge in Tokyo, is in the care of Japanese authorities and the UN refugee agency is now involved in her case, an International Olympic Committee official told reporters Monday.

The latest: Officials in Poland and the Czech Republic have offered to help the 24-year-old sprinter, who refused national team orders to board a flight home after being taken to Tokyo's Haneda airport Sunday following her criticism of Belarusian coaches, per Reuters