Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the Plot to Kidnap Her

Six men have been charged with planning to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer with help from a “militia group” ahead of November 3, the date of the presidential election.

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court and unsealed on Thursday, the FBI learned about the alleged plot through confidential informants and by intercepting encrypted messages.

The men named in the affidavit, posted online by Politico here, are Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta. They have reportedly all been arrested. The “militia group” accused of assisting them was identified as the “Wolverine Watchmen” in a press release from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

During a press conference on Thursday, Whitmer called 2020 a “a hard year for all of us,” and thanked the law enforcement officials who worked to keep her safe.

“When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard,” she said. “But I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this.”

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The FBI says it became aware of the all-male group’s intent to violently overthrow “certain government and law-enforcement components,” in early 2020. During one meeting in Dublin, Ohio, they allegedly began talking about killing “tyrants” or “taking” a sitting governor, later reaching out to the Michigan-based anti-government group. In June, they started participating in firearm training and other combat drills.

At another meeting, the men discussed plans to attack the Michigan State Capitol using Molotov cocktails, the FBI said. They experimented with improvised explosive devices or IEDs, and rifles and night vision goggles. They talked about sending a bomb to Whitmer’s house, and bought an 800,000 volt taser.

The men communicated in code and used encrypted messaging systems, according to the affidavit. They met in the basement of a shop in Michigan accessible only through a “trap door” under a rug.

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Whitmer, a Democrat, has drawn ire from right-wing protesters since assuming office last year. When she first implemented restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, armies of unmasked demonstrators flooded the state capitol building, chanting, “Open up Michigan” and “Lock her up.”

“Unbelievable,” Whitmer called the maskless demonstrations in an interview with ELLE Magazine back in May. “We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, and people were traveling from all different parts of the state and congregating and not wearing masks and not observing the six-feet-apart rule.”

Whitmer addresses the virtual DNC convention.

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She has also been a constant subject of attack by President Trump, who famously referred to her as “that woman from Michigan.” In March, he tweeted that Whitmer was “way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue.”

During Thursday’s press conference, she condemned Trump for refusing to denounce white supremacists during the first presidential debate.

“Hate groups hear the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” she said. “When our leaders speak, their words matter, they carry weight… When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.

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Whitmer waving to a crowd at a 2020 Biden-Harris campaign event in Detroit.

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The group planning Whitmer’s kidnapping got far enough in their plot to conduct surveillance of her vacation home, photographing the property and shooting video as they drove by. Their plan was to blow up a bridge leading to the house, then move her to a secure location in Wisconsin. Fox, one of the men named in the complaint, allegedly said: “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it’s over.”

Fox also allegedly posted this message in a private Facebook page: “We about to be busy ladies and gentlemen . . . This is where the Patriot shows up. Sacrifices his time, money, blood sweat and tears . . . it starts now so get fucking prepared!!”

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During a press conference on Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Nessel confirmed the state had charged an additional seven men who, “engaged in the planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.”

Those men, listed here, are all allegedly members or associates of the Michigan group Wolverine Watchmen.

“There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the re-emergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies,” Nessel said in a statement. “These groups often seek to recruit new members by seizing on a moment of civil unrest and using it to advance their agenda of self-reliance and armed resistance. This is more than just political disagreement or passionate advocacy, some of these groups’ mission is simply to create chaos and inflict harm upon others.”

The total number of men charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer is now 13. On Thursday, the governor said she looks forward to seeing them all held accountable.

“Hatred, bigotry, and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan,” she said. “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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