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Youngkin plans trip to Michigan, repeats criticism of Justice Department

Va. governor’s forays into national spotlight fuel speculation that he has presidential ambitions

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he intends to stump for more candidates later this year. (Steve Helber/AP)

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) said Tuesday that he’ll travel to Michigan at the end of the month to campaign for that state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, the latest in a series of nationwide political trips that are likely to continue into the fall.

After remarks to the Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce at the Colonial Heritage golf club, Youngkin on Tuesday also renewed criticism of the Biden Justice Department for its handling of the search of former president Donald Trump’s home in Florida last week, where federal agents seized sets of classified documents.

Youngkin’s forays into the national spotlight continue to fuel speculation that the political newcomer has presidential ambitions — chatter that he calls humbling without specifically rebutting. Youngkin visited Nebraska last month to speak with state Republicans and appear at a fundraiser with GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen. On Tuesday, Youngkin said he intends to stump for more candidates later this year.

Youngkin hits Nebraska like a GOP star, but some want him to take it slow

“I’m going to go to work in the fall to support Republican governors in their races,” he said. “I got a lot of help from Republican governors in my campaign, and I’m looking forward to returning the favor. … There will be other trips set through the fall.”

Youngkin will travel to Michigan to headline the state GOP’s Aug. 27 convention and campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, who is echoing some of the K-12 education themes that Youngkin rode to the Executive Mansion last year as she tries to unseat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in November.

“Governor Youngkin’s victory in Virginia demonstrated the political power of parents who want to be involved in ensuring their children get a great education,” Dixon said in a written statement. “He also understood the economic challenges facing families and the need for safe communities. I am honored for him to join me and help create a family-friendly Michigan.”

Ron Weiser, chairman of the Michigan GOP, said Youngkin would help the party “rally the troops.”

Left-leaning Progress Michigan greeted the announcement with a harshly worded statement that called out Youngkin for his personal opposition to same-sex marriage and for a lawsuit against him and several other current and former executives of the Carlyle Group accusing them of profiting at the expense of investors and taxpayers.

Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter has noted that any Carlyle transactions were reviewed by “independent experts and advisers.”

“Democrats should learn that governing requires more than just throwing mud,” Kristin Davison, a political consultant to Youngkin, said in response to Progress Michigan.

On Tuesday, Youngkin was asked by reporters about his comments criticizing the Justice Department for its search of Mar-a-Lago and he repeated the charge that the effort has lacked “transparency.”

Youngkin said many Americans have “lost faith” in the Justice Department, in part because it “investigated parents in Loudoun County for being in board meetings.” The comment echoed a tweet he posted Aug. 9 on his personal Twitter account accusing the department of “selective, politically motivated actions” in its action at Mar-a-Lago.

The tweet said it was a “stunning move” and accused the administration of having “labeled parents in Loudoun County as terrorists.”

Youngkin’s comments appeared to be a reference to the Biden administration’s effort last year to investigate reports of threats and harassment at school board meetings after a letter from the National School Boards Association said some of the incidents “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.” The Biden administration itself, however, did not specifically mention Loudoun County or refer to any parents as “terrorists.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) last week accused Youngkin of misstating the facts. “Where is there a shred of evidence that DOJ labeled Loudoun parents ‘terrorists’?” Kaine tweeted, later saying in an interview with news media that Youngkin’s comment was “just a lie.”

Asked Tuesday whether it was wrong to say the Biden administration called parents terrorists, Youngkin seemed to double down on his criticism.

“I believe they did. I think the Department of Justice was investigating parents,” he said.

Pressed further on whether they called them terrorists, he said: “Department of Justice was investigating parents. And they were clear that they were. And what we saw was, was accusations of them being terrorists.”

Youngkin’s appearance at a business breakfast also provided him a chance to preview some priorities for next year’s General Assembly session, including economic development, workforce training, education and affordable housing.

He said he has convened a task force for considering how to improve housing availability as a way to attract people to stay in Virginia, from young people building careers to older residents looking for a place to retire. Youngkin said he’s particularly interested in how the state can work with localities to change zoning and regulatory policies that he said hamper efforts to build high-density housing, adding that he has asked the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to participate in finding ways to reduce demands on developers.

Youngkin also cited the need for transportation funding and investing in infrastructure as an economic development tool. And while he touted his efforts to cut taxes — including some $4 billion in overall tax reductions in the two-year budget passed this year — he made no mention of his unsuccessful efforts to reduce the state’s gasoline tax, which would reduce money flowing into the state’s transportation accounts.

Democrats and one Republican in the state Senate have repeatedly blocked Youngkin’s proposed cut, saying the state needs the money and that the wholesale gas industry and out-of-state drivers would disproportionately benefit from a reduction.