Gov. Whitmer Calls Trump 'Complicit' in Militants' Foiled Plot to Kidnap Her

Militants in Michigan plotted to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her summer residence, calling her a “tyrant bitch,” according to a federal affidavit. The men mused of taking the captured governor to Wisconsin for “trial” for “treason” — and even just killing her outright. As recorded by federal surveillance, the men hoped to jumpstart a wider rebellion: “I can see several states takin’ their fuckin’ tyrants,” one millitant allegedly remarked. “Everybody takes their tyrants.”

Six men were accused in the criminal complaint of “conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer”: Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. All but Croft are Michigan residents. The FBI gained insight into the plot, it describes, from informants and undercover officers who recorded meetings and captured group chat. The men were allegedly motivated to complete their plot before the 2020 election in November.

The alleged plot intersects with national politics. This spring, Michigan’s governor, a Democrat, imposed strict, but effective, stay-at-home restrictions to blunt the state’s coronavirus outbreak. The quarantine sparked armed protests of the Michigan state capitol in Lansing, and prompted president Trump to tweet in April: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.”

In remarks delivered from the governor’s mansion on Thursday, Whitmer revealed 13 members of two militia groups are facing state or federal charges for plotting “to kidnap and possibly kill me.” Whitmer made it clear that she believed Trump was responsible for fanning the flames of civil unrest in Michigan. “When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight,”  Whitmer said. “When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit.”

She called out Trump’s recent debate performance. “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. ‘Stand back and standby,’ he told them. ‘Stand back and standby.’ Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.”

The federal criminal complaint, written by special agent Richard J. Trask II and dated October 6th, describes the kidnapping plot developing throughout the summer over the course of secret meetings. It describes one, in cinematic detail, as taking place in the basement of a shop that “was accessed through a trap door hidden under a rug on the main floor.” Attendees were required to keep their phones in a box upstairs to thwart surveillance, but the meeting was nonetheless infiltrated by an informant “wearing a recording device.”

The militants’ alleged plot advanced to “tactical training” at the residence of a militia group member, and to creating and testing improvised explosive devices. The complaint described a failed efforts to construct IEDs “using black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BBs for shrapnel…. they did not detonate as planned” and a later success, fashioning a bomb from a commercial firework wrapped “in pennies and electrical tape as shrapnel.”

Most of the alleged plot revolved around kidnapping the governor from her vacation residence, which the militants allegedly surveilled on a pair of occasions. They mused of “creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self sufficient,” and believed that overthrowing Whitmer was key to this goal. Alleged conspirator Fox put the plan in simple words, according to the complaint: “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch,” with the goal of subjecting her to a “trial” in what the complaint describes as a “secure location in Wisconsin.” The FBI alleges that the men sought to blow up a bridge leading to the home, to thwart the arrival of law enforcement, and mused about escaping with the governor by boat.

But the men’s talk, the complaint describes, often veered toward discussions of violence and even death. In a group chat, one militant allegedly suggested: “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her.” In another chat, a different militant allegedly suggested the final disposition of the governor mattered little to him: “Kidnapping, arson, death. I don’t care.” This comment allegedly prompted the men to discuss burning down the vacation home. One of the alleged militants rejected joining a planned armed protest by a militia group, remarking: “When the time comes there will be no need to try and strike fear through presence. The fear will be manifested through bullets.”

As described by the FBI, the group was actively raising money to fund the plot, and had “agreed to conduct a final training exercise in late October.”

Seven additional suspects have been arrested on state charges under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Act, for having “made threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse; and engaged in the planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” according a statement by the office of Michigan Attorney general Dana Nessel

Nessell voiced concerns Thursday that this particular plot may not be the only one in Michigan. The state, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is home to more than two dozen active nationalist, extremist and white supremacist hate groups. Nessel told MSNBC “This may well be the tip of the iceberg.”

Whitmer, for her part, spoke directly to any would-be terrorists Thursday. “Let me say this, loud and clear: hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan. If you break the law or conspire to commit heinous acts of violence against anyone, we will find you, we will hold you accountable and we will bring you to justice.”

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