Michigan Governor says ‘domestic terrorists’ behind kidnap plot
Lansing: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that the men charged with plotting to kidnap her and storm the state Capitol should be referred to as domestic terrorists, not members of a militia.
On Thursday, federal and state prosecutors charged 13 members of an armed group with planning to kidnap the Governor and other violent, anti-government acts as part of an effort to ignite a wider civil war. The group's organisers face felony domestic terrorism charges.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was the target of a kidnap plot, say police.Credit:Bloomberg
Multiple news organisations referred to those charged as "Michigan militia" members, but Whitmer on Friday condemned that language.
"They're not 'militias.' They're domestic terrorists endangering and intimidating their fellow Americans. Words matter," the Governor wrote in a tweet.
In the 1990s, several anti-government groups in the state united under the name Michigan Militia, but in recent years, the term has been used for all similar organisations there.
Critics have argued the term militia should not be applied to extremist groups such as the one involved in the plot against Whitmer because it appears to lend them legitimacy.
Whitmer and her family had been moved around by authorities as law enforcement tracked the men behind the plot to kidnap her, the state's Attorney-General said Friday.
Dana Nessel disclosed the detail to CBS This Morning. She said the Democratic Governor was aware of the threat and consistently updated about the investigation.
Authorities say the plot involved months of planning and even rehearsals to snatch her from her vacation home before the November 3 presidential elections. Whitmer's first term as governor does not end until 2022.
Six men were charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap the governor in retaliation for what they viewed as her "uncontrolled power," according to a federal complaint.
Separately, seven others linked to a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in state court for allegedly seeking to storm the Michigan Capitol and seek a "civil war," including four who allegedly helped to surveil Whitmer’s house.
The two groups trained together and planned various other acts of violence, according to the state police.
Surveillance for the kidnapping plot took place in August and September, according to an FBI affidavit, and four of the men had planned to meet Wednesday to "make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear."
"We thought it was time to move in before anybody lost their lives," Nessel said.
Whitmer, who was considered as Biden’s running mate, has been widely praised for her response to the coronavirus but also sharply criticised by Republican lawmakers and people in conservative areas of the state. She has been a frequent target of US President Donald Trump's tweets. The Capitol has been the site of many rallies, including ones with gun-toting protesters calling for her ouster.
The FBI quoted one of the men accused of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer as saying she "has no checks and balances at all. She has uncontrolled power right now. All good things must come to an end." That same man, Adam Fox, who was described as one of the leaders in the alleged plot, livestreamed a video to a private Facebook group "in which he complained about the judicial system and the state controlling the opening of gyms," according to the federal complaint.
Whitmer closed gyms in March but reopened them in some areas in June and statewide in September.
Andrew Birge, the US attorney in western Michigan, called the men "violent extremists." They discussed detonating explosive devices – including under a highway bridge – to divert police from the area near Whitmer’s vacation home and Fox bought a Taser to use in the kidnapping, Birge said.
Whitmer has pinned some blame on Trump, noting that he did not condemn white supremacists in last week’s debate with Joe Biden and instead told a far-right group to "stand back and stand by."
"Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action," Whitmer said.
Trump tweeted that the Governor "has done a terrible job" and again called on her to "open up your state." He also tweeted: "I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence."
Whitmer had put major restrictions on personal movement and the economy to control the spread of the coronavirus, although many of those limits have been lifted since the northern spring.
The Governor has exchanged barbs with Trump before on social media, with the President calling in April to "liberate Michigan!"
Trump Biden 2020
Our weekly newsletter will deliver expert analysis of the race to the White House from our US correspondent Matthew Knott. Sign up for The Sydney Morning Herald‘s newsletter here, The Age‘s here, Brisbane Times‘ here and WAtoday‘s here.
Most Viewed in World
Source: Read Full Article