The FBI has said it broke up a plot to over throw Michigan’s government and kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom the alleged plotters described as a “tyrant.”
Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced charges against six men for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Whitmer in a raid planned on her home. Though authorities did not characterize their politics, the men were quoted in court papers as parroting right-wing talking points about Whitmer. The Democrat has been a frequent target of right-wing figures, including President Trump, who tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” in April during the state’s lockdown. Michigan prosecutors separately filed domestic terrorism charges against seven other men identified as members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia who allegedly offered support to the plotters.
“There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the reemergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference, according to MLive. “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.”
In all, 13 men are charged, with the seven militia members already in jail. The remaining six were arrested during raids across the state on Thursday. Authorities say all the men were prepared to kill or help kill law-enforcement officers in order to achieve their coup d’état.
Feds say the plot to overthrow the government in Lansing started at a June meeting, witnessed by an FBI informant, during which they talked about “creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient.” The FBI said one of the men reached out to militia members for help, specifically to recruit a force of “200 men” to storm the state capitol and take hostages, including Whitmer. Militia members carrying assault rifles had already protested Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown orders outside the state capitol in March. Two of the men charged were also reportedly among a gun-toting group who menaced lawmakers inside the capitol in the spring.
The plotters ultimately settled on plans to launch an assault on Whitmer’s vacation home before kidnapping her and whisking her away to a location in Wisconsin where she would be put on “trial” for “treason,” according to the Feds.
The news comes less than a month after FBI director Christopher Wray told Congress that violent, far-right extremism is the top domestic threat to the U.S.