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FBI arrests six in plot to kidnap Michigan Governor

Four planned to meet on Wednesday to “make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear,” the FBI said in the court filing.

The FBI quoted one of the accused as saying Whitmer “has no checks and balances at all. She has uncontrolled power right now. All good things must come to an end”.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been a target of Trump's criticism, including over her moves to enforce social distancing rules in her state.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been a target of Trump’s criticism, including over her moves to enforce social distancing rules in her state. Credit:

The criminal complaint identified the six as Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta, all of Michigan, and Barry Croft, of Delaware.

Fox said he needed 200 men to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including the Governor, according to the FBI. He said he wanted to try Whitmer for “treason” and would execute the plan before the November 3 election, the government said. The group later shifted to targeting the Governor’s holiday home, the FBI said.

“Our efforts uncovered elaborate plans to endanger the lives of law enforcement officers, government officials and the broader public,” Michigan Attorney-General Dana Nessel said.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Michigan.Credit:AP

President Donald Trump on Thursday night (Friday AEDT) slammed Whitmer for not saying “thank you”.

Whitmer “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.

“My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement … foiled a dangerous plot [and] rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist,” he wrote.

At a news conference, Whitmer did thank law enforcement and prosecutors for thwarting the plot and pursuing criminal charges “to bring these sick and depraved men to justice”.

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She criticised the President by saying he had not done enough to condemn hate groups “like these two Michigan militia groups” in the country and accused him of “stoking distrust”, “fomenting anger” and emboldening groups who “spread fear and hatred and division”.

Officials say the 13 men arrested are all members or acquaintances of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group. In addition, all have been tied to a larger scheme — attempting to foment a civil war — according to investigators.

Whitmer who often clashes with Trump, brought up his comments during the first presidential debate when Trump told the far-right Proud Boys 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,” Whitmer said.

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“When our leader speaks, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternise with domestic terrorists, they legitimise their actions, and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”

Trump said on Twitter that he does “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!”

Appearing on CNN, before the President’s tweets, Whitmer said she had asked Republicans in her state and the White House to decrease the level of incendiary rhetoric that she said helped initiate the alleged plot against her.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany pushed back, saying Trump has condemned all forms of hate.

“Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations,” McEnany said in a statement.

Whitmer has been praised but also deeply criticised for the state’s response to the coronavirus.

She put major restrictions on personal movement throughout the state and on the economy, although many of those limits have been lifted. The Michigan Supreme Court last week said a 1945 law used as the foundation for many of the Governor’s orders was unconstitutional.

The government said the plot against Whitmer was stopped with the work of undercover agents and informants. Through electronic communications, two of the alleged conspirators “agreed to unite others in their cause and take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the US Constitution,” the FBI said.

The government said the scheme appeared to have roots in a June gathering in Dublin, Ohio, attended by more than a dozen people from several states, including Croft and Fox.

“The group talked about creating a society that followed the US Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the FBI affidavit said. “They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavours to violent actions. … Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor.”

AP, Reuters, USA Today

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