Plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer foiled, 13 arrested
US law enforcement have arrested 13 people over a failed plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, authorities have said.
- The six men charged in federal court face up to life in prison if convicted
- They were due in court Thursday
- Ms Whitmer has been both praised and criticised for the state’s response to the coronavirus
The alleged scheme involved months of planning, training with a group federal authorities described as a militia and even rehearsals to snatch Ms Whitmer at her vacation home, according to an affidavit by FBI special agent Richard Trask released on Thursday.
Six men were charged in federal court, while seven others accused of trying to target police and the state Capitol were charged in state court.
“Our efforts uncovered elaborate plans to endanger the lives of law enforcement officers, government officials and the broader public,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told a news conference.
The six men charged in federal court were arrested Wednesday night and face up to life in prison if convicted.
The criminal complaint identified them as Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta, all of Michigan, and Barry Croft of Delaware.
They were due in court Thursday. Andrew Birge, the US attorney in western Michigan, called them “violent extremists”.
Four planned to meet Wednesday to “make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear”, the FBI said in the court filing.
“All of us in Michigan can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever amount to violence,” Detroit US Attorney Matthew Schneider told reporters.
“Violence has been prevented today.”
Whitner criticised for COVID-19 restrictions
Ms Whitmer is a Democrat and has been a frequent target of Republican President Donald Trump’s criticism.
She 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.
In April, after Mr Trump called on Twitter for states including Michigan to be “liberated” from COVID-19 restrictions, protesters used their cars to block the streets in Michigan’s capital, Lansing for ‘Operation Gridlock’ in protest to Ms Whitmer’s strict stay-at-home order.
On May Day, dozens of protesters, some of them heavily armed, occupied the Michigan state capitol building with some chanting “lock her up” in reference to Ms Whitmer.
The Michigan Supreme Court last week said a 1945 law used as the foundation for many of the Governor’s orders is unconstitutional.
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 FBI quoted one of the accused as saying Ms Whitmer “has no checks and balances at all”.
The accused 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 Ms Whitmer for “treason” and would execute the plan before the November 3 election.
The group later shifted to targeting the Governor’s vacation home, the FBI said.
“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.
It said different ways of achieving this goal were discussed from peaceful endeavours to violent actions including “murdering tyrants”.