April 8, 2020, 6:15 AM CDT / Updated April 8, 2020, 6:21 AM CDT
By Allan Smith


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel caught wind of a surprising development. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office had about 75 new executive orders the state's top law enforcement official would soon need to review.

"Do you mean seven? Do you mean five? Is that an accident?" Nessel said she responded.


There was no mistake. In a state that is among the hardest hit by coronavirus pandemic, particularly Detroit, where the death toll is higher than anywhere in the country outside New York state, Nessel said the swift and, at times, overwhelming actions her governor is taking are needed.

"People in our state are dying in droves right now," she said. "So, it's what you got to do."


For Nessel, there's no one she would rather enter into battle with than Whitmer, the first-term governor who finds herself not only at the forefront of state leaders handling the outbreak, but mentioned as a possible Joe Biden running mate and, up until recently, under fire from President Donald Trump.

Gov. Whitmer: States 'should not be fighting each other' over hospital suppliesMARCH 29, 202000:56

She declared a state of emergency on March 10, the same day the state held primary elections, telling NBC News that was when it became clear "what we were in for." Within days, the 48-year-old governor has closed schools, barred large gatherings, expanded the state's unemployment benefits and put a moratorium on evictions.

"We've been on the front edge of each of the policy steps we've made, and I think they've all been right," Whitmer said. "Now, if I can go back and advise myself at the beginning of March and what would I have done, I would have started buying every N95 mask I can get my hands on. I had no idea. I don't think anyone knew what we would be confronting."

As a result, Whitmer, like some of her colleagues, have taken to the air and pleaded for the federal government to provide their states with more personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, expanded testing capacity and ventilators from the strategic national stockpile.


She drew Trump's ire after interviews in which she suggested the federal government may be blocking Michigan's requests, leading some Republicans to push back. She later said the federal government was creating the conditions by which states were bidding against each other for the same equipment and driving up the costs.

"It's a source of frustration that there's not more of a national strategy on procurement of these critical pieces of equipment that everyone across our country is going to need," Whitmer told NBC News. "And when we're bidding against one another and the price keeps going up, then we can't count on the national stockpile to meet our needs, it creates a very dangerous situation."


Such commentary led Trump to single her out, saying late last month he has a "big problem" with the "young, a woman governor" in Michigan, adding he cautioned Vice President Mike Pence not to call "the woman in Michigan." Trump blasted her as "Gretchen 'Half' Whitmer" in a March 27 tweet in which he said she was "way in over her" head and "doesn't have a clue."

In response, Whitmer tweeted she "asked repeatedly and respectfully for help" and that if Trump says he stands with Michigan, he should "prove it."


The tension has eased in recent days. Trump said Sunday his administration is "working very well, I think, with" Whitmer as she publicly thanked the federal government for providing her state several hundred ventilators. Recent shipments from FEMA also brought in more than 1 million surgical masks and 2 million gloves, among other needed supplies.


Whitmer said her administration is "working really well with" FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and Pence, whom she says she's "relatively frequently" on the phone with and is "kind and responsive." Trump gave her a call last week too, she said.

"I've tried to make sure that everyone understands, I'm not spoiling for a fight with anyone, I just need help," she said. "And we're not one another's enemies.