The disclosure of the kidnapping plot ignited a war-of-words between Whitmer and Trump over a variety of issues ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to ideological extremism.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) charged thirteen people on Thursday, October 8, in an alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and violently overthrow the government.
According to a federal criminal complaint, the plot aimed to harm Whitmer and overthrow state governments, including the government of Michigan, which the suspects believed were violating the US Constitution.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Thursday that seven out of the thirteen belonged to the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen” and had been charged by the state; while the other six charged, by the federal government with conspiracy to kidnap, were Michigan residents.
“The individuals in (state) custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan,” Nessel said at a press conference.
Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Whitmer thanked law enforcement and state troopers for foiling the kidnapping conspiracy.
“This is unlike anything we have seen before. The brave men and women of these two police organizations put their lives on the line to keep me and my family safe. I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by the work they do,” Whitmer said.
Law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies tracking extremism have regularly warned against the growing threat from “extremist and far-right groups” that have often been critical of Whitmer over her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Whitmer accused President Donald Trump of declining to condemn far-right groups.
“Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups,” Whitmer said, adding that
Trump had asked the Proud Boys, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Group as an extremist hate group, to “stand back and stand by.”
“Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.”
Whitmer also referred to the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “None of us has faced a challenge like COVID-19. Not in our lifetimes.”
“I have said it many times,” Whitmer added, “We are not one another’s enemy. This virus is our enemy, and this enemy is relentless.”
“Our head of state has spent the last seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division,” she said.
In response, Trump launched a scathing attack on Whitmer through a string of tweets on Thursday night, accusing her husband of flouting coronavirus lockdown rules and adjuring her to open up schools and churches in Michigan.
“Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities. The Federal Government provided tremendous help to the Great People of Michigan,” Trump tweeted.
“My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced… today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist—while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities… I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!”
In a statement to CNN on Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blamed Whitmer for “sowing division.”
“President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate,” McEnany said.
“Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations. America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot,” she added.
Details of the plot
The FBI reportedly became aware of the plot in early 2020. They then planted a confidential informant in Dublin, Ohio, on June 6, for a meeting with Adam Fox and Barry Croft, who are among the federally charged men, and 13 others.
The federal criminal complaint stated, “They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions … Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor.”
The complaint further revealed that the group wanted to increase their members, which resulted in Fox approaching a “Michigan-based militia group.” By June 14, another informant planted by the FBI confirmed that Fox met the militia group’s chief in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fox allegedly said that he needed “200 men” to hijack the Capitol building in Lansing and create a hostage situation that included Whitmer, according to the informant’s audio-recorded conversations with Fox.
As per the complaint, Fox allegedly threatened that Whitmer would be tried for “treason” and that the plan would be executed before the November 3 presidential election.
The complaint added that Fox and others assembled at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids, where “The attendees discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to destroy police vehicles. The attendees also discussed plans for an additional meeting during the first weekend of July when they also would conduct firearms and tactical training.”
According to the FBI, the accused surveyed Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September. They also planned to detonate explosives to divert police attention away from Whitmer’s vacation home area.
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