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Michigan lawmaker disciplined for warning Trump backers

December 9, 2020 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican leaders in the Michigan House stripped a Black Democratic lawmaker of her committee assignments Wednesday because she took to social media to warn “Trumpers,” after saying she had received at least one racist threat that she should be lynched.

Rep. Cynthia Johnson, of Detroit, sits on a GOP-led committee that heard baseless allegations of widespread election fraud from President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others last week. Johnson reported getting multiple threats after the hearing, including one in which a Texas man told her to “rot in hell” and threatened to burn several crosses in her yard and hang a noose from her tree.

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On Tuesday night, she took to Facebook to warn “you Trumpers. Be careful. Walk lightly. We ain’t playing with you. Enough of the shenanigans. Enough is enough. And for those of you who are soldiers, you know how to do it. Do it right. Be in order. Make them pay.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, of Levering, and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, of Farwell, said they were exploring further disciplinary action against the first-term legislator, who lost her spot on three committees in the closing days of the two-year session.

“Threats to either Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official,” they said in a joint statement stating that violence and intimidation is never appropriate in politics. “That applies to threats made toward public officials, and it must also apply when the threats come from public officials. Behavior like this will not be tolerated this term or next.”

Johnson could not be reached for comment. Earlier in the video, she urged people to “be smart” and “hit them in the pocketbook” — an apparent reference to Trump supporters. She said the FBI and state police had identified an Illinois woman who left her a voicemail saying she would post Johnson’s phone number to a million people.

On Wednesday, Johnson made a video urging “soldiers” — Christians and those opposing racism, misogyny, domestic violence, domestic terrorism and mistreatment of Black and brown people — “to rise.”

In the wake of the presidential election, lawmakers and other officials from both parties have reported being threatened by citizens amid Trump’s campaign to subvert the will of voters and reverse his reelection loss to Democrat Joe Biden by targeting key battleground states. Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points.

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House Democratic Leader Christine Greig, of Farmington Hills, and the next Democratic leader, Rep. Donna Lasinski of Washtenaw County’s Scio Township, said Johnson’s comments regrettably “led to the unintended consequence of adding further tension. It’s incumbent upon every elected official to be mindful of the impact of our words, especially in a moment of national tension and crisis.”

They said, though, that the decision to remove Johnson from committees and the GOP’s leaders use of “overheated language” in their statement shows that Republicans “prioritize partisan politics and political theater over healing the wounds of division.”

Greig and Lasinski said the GOP’s “coddling” of election conspiracy theories fuels “an increasingly dangerous and destructive political environment that needlessly removes focus on addressing the significant challenges of the pandemic.”

State Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said she received more than 80 calls Wednesday regarding the threats of violence against Johnson, the legislator’s reaction and whether Nessel’s office would investigate.

“The threats Rep. Johnson has received are appalling, ugly and deeply disturbing, but her response to those messages is also unacceptable and I strongly condemn both,” Nessel said in a statement. She urged people to call 911 or the police if they have been threatened or fear for their safety.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00