The self-proclaimed “patriots” first planned a full-blown attack on the capitol, then decided to “grab” Gov. Whitmer from her vacation home.
The FBI has charged a group of Michigan militia members over a terrorist plot to kidnap state Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and assassinate other government officials.
The militia and its associates, totaling at least 15 men from several different states, conspired—in person and over the internet—to “overthrow” sitting governors they view as “tyrannical.”
“In early 2020, the FBI became aware through social media that a group of individuals were discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law-enforcement components,” says a 6 October filing submitted to the U.S. District Court of Western Michigan.
According to MLive.com, the court record notes that militia members and far-right figures—including two from Michigan—met in Dublin, Ohio, to discuss taking “violent actions against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution.”
“[…] Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” the filing states. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”
Five Michigan men, as well as a Delaware resident, now face federal charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Additional, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced further charges against seven suspected of violating state law.
After the Ohio meeting, says MLive.com, one of the Michigan-based suspects contacted the leader of a local militia. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation already had an informant within the group, who had earlier contacted the FBI after learning that the militia had tentative plans to murder members of law enforcement.
The informant told the FBI that, during a June meeting in Ohio, the militia began forming a plan to gather 200 radicals to storm the Michigan state capitol and take a number of hostages, including Gov. Whitmer. Afterward, they would hold a kangaroo court to try the governor for “treason.”
Within weeks, however, the militia began altering its plan. Instead of attempting a raid on the capitol, they began discussing an alternative: “grabbing” Gov. Whitmer from her vacation home.
In preparation, militia members began gathering firearms, scouting the location around Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home, and contacting area realtors to tour nearby residences and learn about the locality’s layout. They also built and tested improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and planned to acquire more between mid-September and the upcoming general election in November.
Michigan’s Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), condemned the plot and expressed outrage over the militia’s “patriotic” intent.
“A threat against our governor is a threat against us all,” Shirkey said in a Thursday statement. “We condemn those who plotted against her and our government. They are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions. They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
However, even after news of the plot went public, President Donald Trump refused to either condemn the militia or offer support to Gov. Whitmer and state legislators. Instead, the commander-in-chief insulted Gov. Whitmer expressed disdain for her coronavirus mitigation orders and policies.
“Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities,” Trump wrote on Twitter. He later urged her to “open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!”
Gov. Whitmer quickly noted that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has already caused problems and unrest in Michigan.
“We know every time that this White House identifies me or takes a shot at me, we see an increase in rhetoric online, violent rhetoric, and so there’s always a connection and certainly it’s something that we’ve been watching,” Whitmer said in a statement. “But this took it to a whole new level.”