- The FBI foiled an alleged plot by five men to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the state’s government, the bureau announced Thursday.
- “Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”
- Armed right-wing protesters stormed the Michigan capitol earlier this year after Whitmer signed an executive order imposing a statewide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
- President Donald Trump also called on his supporters at the time to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and later refused to condemn the armed protesters who converged on the capitol, calling them “very good people.”
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Federal prosecutors have charged five men with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the state’s government, Detroit News first reported.
NBC News’ Tom Winter reported that the five men identified in court documents are Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta.
Federal prosecutors are expected to discuss the alleged kidnapping plot at a press conference Thursday. The news comes after FBI agents and Michigan state police spent hours on Wednesday night raiding a home in Hartland, Michigan. WXYZ reported that the raid was connected to the investigation into the defendants.
According to an FBI affidavit, the defendants allegedly reached out to members of an armed, right-wing militia in Michigan to carry out their plan.
“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. Among those individuals identified were CROFT and FOX,” Richard Trask II, an FBI agent, wrote in the sworn affidavit. “Through electronic communications, CROFT and FOX agreed to unite others in their cause and take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution.”
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” Trask wrote. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message. As part of that recruitment effort, FOX reached out to a Michigan based militia group.”
Trask added that the militia group had previously come under FBI scrutiny in a March when a member of the group told the bureau they were concerned about its plans “to target and kill police officers.” That person later agreed to become a confidential human source (CHS), Trask said. He wrote that the FBI was able to monitor the activities of Fox and others through confidential human sources.
In one instance, on June 14, a source “participated in a consensually recorded telephone call” with Fox, who “said he needed ‘200 men’ to storm the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, and take hostages, including the governor,” Trask wrote. Fox said “they would try the Governor of Michigan for ‘treason,’ and he said they would execute the plan before the November 2020 elections.”
Whitmer landed in the crosshairs of far-right and right-wing protesters after she ordered a lockdown in her state amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic within the US earlier this year.
Shortly after, angry Michiganders expressed anger at Whitmer’s executive order on social media and in nearly 1,200 emails to Business Insider.
In late April, hundreds of protesters converged on the state’s capitol to protest Whitmer’s extension of the stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the virus. At that point, Michigan health officials had reported more than 41,000 COVID-19 cases in the state and 3,789 deaths, with new 980 new cases and 119 new deaths the previous day.
Many of the protesters were carrying guns and were photographed confronting lawmakers in the state’s Senate.
—Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020
The protest came days after President Donald Trump called on his supporters to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in a tweet.
In the aftermath of the protest, Trump refused to condemn the display and called right-wing demonstrators who carried guns into the capitol “very good people.” He also urged Whitmer to “make a deal” with them.
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