- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2019

The White House said Thursday that President Trump was counterpunching and “under attack” when he suggested at a campaign rally that the late Democratic Rep. John Dingell might have gone to hell.

“He has been under attack, and under impeachment attack, for the last few months, and then just under attack politically for the last two-and-a-half years,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I think that as we all know, the president is a counterpuncher.”

She added that Mr. Trump was speaking at a campaign rally.

“It was a very, very supportive and wild crowd, and he was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the past few days,” she said.

During the rally Wednesday night in Battle Creek, Michigan, the president criticized Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, widow of the late Mr. Dingell, for voting to impeach him earlier in the evening.



The president recounted how he had ordered flags lowered to half-staff for the funeral of the 92-year-old Mr. Dingell in February, and how Mrs. Dingell had thanked him profusely. He was the longest-serving lawmaker in U.S. history.

“She calls me up,” Mr. Trump said of Mrs. Dingell. “‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much, John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down, he’d be so thrilled.’”

To the crowd, Mr. Trump quipped, “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. Maybe. But let’s assume he’s looking down.”

Mrs. Dingell said the comment was hurtful at a time when she is still mourning her husband’s death.

The president’s comment elicited groans, boos and also some laughter from the crowd in a battleground state that he wants to win badly in 2020.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Michigan Democrat, was among those calling on Mr. Trump to apologize.

“Mr. President, shame on you. Going after Rep. John Dingell, a WWII vet and devoted public servant who spent his life fighting for Michiganders, demeans you and your office,” she tweeted.

Ms. Grisham said she was “very, very sorry” for Mrs. Dingell’s loss.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the president’s comments, “Cruelty is not wit.”

Some Republicans also disavowed the president’s remark. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas Republican, tweeted at Mrs. Dingell, “Merry Christmas Debbie, you deserve to be able to heal in peace. Those comments were totally unnecessary.”

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