Gretchen Whitmer hits out at Trump as she denounces plot to kidnap her

Politician accused president of ‘giving comfort’ to extremists

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 08 October 2020 19:53 EDT
Gretchen Whitmer hits out at Donald Trump as she denounces kidnap plot

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer hit out at Donald Trump as she denounced the violent kidnap plot against her.

Gov Whitmer launched a blistering attack on the president and accused him of “giving comfort” to white supremacists and hate groups in the US.

The politician spoke out just hours after it emerged the right-wing Wolverine Watchmen militia had planned to snatch her and put her on “trial” for her coronavirus emergency orders.

“This should be a moment for national unity where we all pull together as Americans to meet this challenge head on," she said.

“Seeing the humanity in one another and doing our part to help our country get through this. 

"Instead our head of state has spent the last seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those that spread fear and hatred and division.

“Just last week the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.

"Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, a call to action."

Federal and state authorities have charged 13 militia members over the plot to kidnap the governor and target other law enforcement members.

The FBI says the men planned to capture the governor before the 3 November national election and “try” her in Wisconsin.

Gov Whitmer spoke of her shock at learning of the plot against her.

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

“Hopefully this will lead to convictions that will bring these sick and depraved men to justice.

“As a mum with two teenage daughters and three stepsons my husband and I are eternally grateful to everyone who put themselves in harms way to keep our family safe."

Six members of the Wolverine Watchmen group have been charged in federal court, while seven other suspects face terrorism charges in state court.

The six charged by the federal government are Michigan residents Adam Fox, 37, Ty Garbin, 24, Kaleb Franks, 26, Daniel Harris, 23, Brandon Caserta, 32, and Delaware resident Barry Croft, 44.

The seven people charged by the state are Paul Bellar, 21, Shawn Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Michael Null, 38, William Null, 38, Pete Musico, 42, Joseph Morrison, 42. 

They face a variety of firearm and terror charges.

Authorities broke up the alleged plot and arrested the militia members after a raid at a home in the state on Wednesday night.

Officials say the group planned to murder “tyrants” or grab a sitting governor ahead of the election.

Ms Whitmer imposed some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in her state and has been a fierce critic of Donald Trump’s pandemic response, as well as being a regular target of insults from the president, including as recently as Thursday morning, hours before news of the conspiracy became public.

Speaking to Fox Business by phone, Mr Trump called Gov Whitmer the “lockup queen” in response to the strict anti-coronavirus measures she had introduced in Michigan. It was not immediately clear whether the president had already been briefed about the plot against the governor when he brought her up during his interview.

In April Mr Trump tweeted “Liberate Michigan” amid a string of demonstrations that saw heavily armed protesters at the State Capitol. 

Gov Whitmer said in May that there had been an “explosion” in threats against her and that the governor’s residence underwent a $1.1m security upgrade last month.

Officials say that the conspirators met at a Second Amendment rally in Lansing in July and reached out to the militia for reinforcements.

Authorities say they used confidential sources, undercover agents and “clandestine recordings” to track the men and their plot.

In a June phone call recorded by an informant, Mr Fox said he needed “200 men” to storm the Capitol building and take hostages.

“Fox explained they would try the Governor of Michigan for ‘treason,’” the affidavit states.

In June the group also met at Mr Fox’s business in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they gathered in a basement accessed by a trap door hidden under a rug.

Everyone there handed over their cell phones, which were removed to “prevent any monitoring.”

“The attendees discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using 'Molotov cocktails' to destroy police vehicles,” stated the affidavit.

“The attendees also discussed plans for an additional meeting during the first weekend of July when they also would conduct firearms and tactical training.”

“Snatch and grab, man,” Mr Fox allegedly said in a recorded call from July 2020. “Grab the f****n’ Governor. Just grab the b***h. Because at that point, we do that, dude—it’s over."

After a string of secret meetings over the summer the group twice carried out surveillance on the governor’s holiday home in northern Michigan.

They are also accused of successfully detonating a home made explosive device and inspecting a nearby bridge as a possible location to place a bomb.

Earlier this month Mr Fox told the group he had purchased a Taser, which he had talked about doing in previous meetings.

The FBI said Fox, Garbin, Harris and Franks planned to meet on 7 October to pay for explosives and swap tactical gear.

The affidavit also details how the group used a private Facebook group to communicate about their plans.

Facebook says that it “proactively reached out and cooperated” early on in the investigation.

“We remove content, disable accounts and immediately report to law enforcement when there is a credible threat of imminent harm to people or public safety,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

All five Michigan-based defendants appeared in court on Thursday and requested court-appointed lawyers.

They will return to court on Tuesday for bond hearings. Mr Croft will be prosecuted by US attorneys in Delaware.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in