US investigators have arrested 13 men who allegedly planned the kidnapping of Governor Gretchen Whitmer – and a civil war.
In the US state of Michigan, a group of men allegedly planned a plot against the local government and the kidnapping of Governor Gretchen Whitmer – and was stopped by investigators. The authorities announced a total of 13 arrests on Thursday. Six men face federal charges over various allegations. In parallel, the Michigan Justice Department is pursuing charges against seven other suspects. The ministry accuses them of trying to start a civil war in order to bring about “social collapse”. The Democrat Whitmer suggested that alleged extremists like those accused by US President Donald Trump could feel motivated.
According to the FBI, at least six of the arrested have been planning the kidnapping of Whitmer before the US elections on November 3 at the latest since the summer, according to a court document with descriptions by the FBI investigators. At the end of July, one of the suspects said that Whitmer could best be kidnapped on arrival or when leaving her private vacation home or the governor’s summer residence. The group observed the holiday home in August and September. Apparently, they considered detonating a bomb under a nearby bridge to prevent the police from intervening during the kidnapping, the investigators further described.
“I knew this job was going to be tough,” said Whitmer on Thursday. “But to be honest, I could never have imagined something like that.” The plans were uncovered with the help of informants, undercover agents and secret recordings of conversations, said prosecutor Andrew Birge at a press conference. He described the suspects as “violent extremists”. If convicted, they face life imprisonment. The arrests were made on Wednesday evening.
Earlier this year, the FBI became aware on social networks that a group of people – including two of those arrested – had discussed the “violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components.” In order to get support for their efforts, one of the suspects approached a militia in Michigan.
In a phone call in mid-June, one of the suspects is said to have said he would need 200 men to storm the Capitol in the capital Lansing and take hostages, including the governor, who is to be tried for “treason”. The same suspect reportedly said, during an observation of the governor’s vacation home in September, “She fucking loves the power she has right now.” Whitmer has “uncontrolled power”.
According to Minister Dana Nessel, the seven men against whom the Justice Department is trying to prosecute are said to have had members of the militia called “Wolverine Watchmen” or had ties to her. They are accused of trying to find addresses of police officers in order to attack them and to instigate a civil war. In addition, they were involved in planning and training for an attack on the Capitol in Lansing, said Nessel. The plans would have put the lives of police officers, government officials and the general public at risk.
Whitmer is a rising figure in the Democratic Party. In the Corona crisis, she imposed strict exit restrictions, which earned her a lot of praise but also harsh criticism, including from US President Trump. Protesters marched outside the Capitol for several weeks in a row accusing Whitmer of “tyranny”. Trump expressed his support for the partly armed demonstrators and showed understanding that they wanted their lives back. “These are very good people, but they are angry,” Trump said.
Armed demonstrators broke into the building during a May Day protest. Michigan is one of the US states that allow individuals to openly carry firearms. Exceptions are certain places such as banks, places of worship, courts, hospitals or shops that sell alcohol – but not the parliament building. Investigators failed to establish a link between the detainees’ efforts and the Lansing incident in the spring.
Whitmer accused Trump of fueling anger in the corona crisis. “This should be a moment of national unity. Instead, our head of state has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, instilling suspicion, inciting anger and providing comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division, “she said Thursday. It does not appear from the published document that the alleged extremists might have felt inspired by Trump.
Whitmer recalled that in the TV debate against his Democratic challenger Joe Biden last week, Trump refused to clearly condemn right-wing extremists and hate groups. “When our leaders speak, their words have meaning, they have weight,” she said. According to the New York Times, attorney general Nessel made a similar statement: Leading politicians must weaken these “very dangerous messages” to people who would commit such acts of violence, she said.
Trump then tweeted that Whitmer was making allegations against him instead of thanking government security forces for foiling the kidnapping. Trump’s adviser Jason Miller previously said, “If we want to talk about hate, look in the mirror, Governor Whitmer.” She wakes up every day with “hatred in her heart” for Trump.