Trump threatens GM over Ohio plans: 'They better damn well open a new plant there'

  • President Donald Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that he warned GM CEO Mary Barra that her company was "playing around with the wrong person."
  • Trump also says that he told Barra on Sunday night that GM should open a new plant in Ohio, saying, "They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly."
  • GM plans to cease operations at plants in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and Ontario by next year — and to cut back production at two other plants, as well — and cut its work force by 15 percent.
President Donald Trump 
Mark Wilson | Getty Images
President Donald Trump 

President Donald Trump on Monday tore into General Motors for its newly announced plan to halt production at multiple plants in the U.S. and Canada, telling reporters that he warned GM CEO Mary Barra that her company was "playing around with the wrong person."

GM's plan to cease operations at plants in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and Ontario by next year — and to cut back production at two other plants, as well — will cost up to $3.8 billion and shrink the Detroit-based carmaker by more than 14,000 jobs, or about 15 percent of its salaried staff.

Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Monday that he spoke with Barra on Sunday night to discuss the downsizing plan. He told her that GM should stop making cars in China and open a new plant in Ohio to replace the ones being closed.

"They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly," Trump told the Journal. "I love Ohio," Trump said. "I told them, 'you're playing around with the wrong person,'" he added, according to the newspaper.

Trump continued: "I said, 'I heard you're closing your plant,'" he recalled from his conversation with Barra. "'It's not going to be closed for long, I hope, Mary, because if it is you have a problem.'"

The president, who had lamented the empty factories and depressed rural towns when he visited the state in July 2017, had promised the state's residents that their jobs are "all coming back." He won the state in 2016 by more than 8 percentage points.

Trump joined Ohio leaders, including several Democrats, in blasting the move. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a potential 2020 rival for Trump, called the decision "corporate greed at its worst."

Barra insisted that GM's restructuring was a pre-emptive step to take during strong economic times to protect her company through a future economic slowdown while continuing to invest in new technologies, the Journal reported.

The Journal's interview was published shortly after Trump told journalists outside the White House that he wasn't happy with GM's plan. He also noted that the Chevrolet Cruze was not selling well and urged the company to put something else in its place. GM killed the Cruze and several other passenger cars as part of its cost-cutting plan, USA Today reported Monday.

"I said, 'then put a car in here that is selling well, but get it opened fast,'" the president said in the Journal interview.

Meanwhile, Barra met with Trump's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, on Monday at the White House.

The president's remarks came as he was headed to Mississippi, where he plans to host two rallies in support of GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who has come under fire — including from former corporate donors — for remarks viewed as racially insensitive.