More than a dozen people have been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to officials.
United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced on Thursday that Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were federally charged with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer, 49, at her vacation home in the Western District of Michigan.
Separately, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison — all known to be members or associates of a militia group — were arrested on state terrorism charges.
The FBI became aware of the alleged scheme earlier this year through social media, according to a criminal complaint. Officials alleged that six individuals plotted the "violent overthrow of certain government and law-enforcement components" that they believe were "violating the U.S. Constitution."
Members of the alleged conspiracy conducted coordinated surveillance on Whitmer's vacation home and attempted to obtain the addresses of local law-enforcement officers, according to the complaint. Authorities also claimed that several suspects participated in firearms training and attempted to construct an improvised explosive device.
"All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, Eastern District of Michigan, said in a statement. “The allegations in this complaint are deeply disturbing. We owe our thanks to the men and women of law enforcement who uncovered this plot and have worked so hard to protect Governor Whitmer.”
According to the Michigan Department of Attorney General, seven individuals made threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse and trained for an operation to attack the state Capitol building.
"There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the re-emergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies," Nessel said. "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."
Whitmer addressed the alleged plot in a press conference on Thursday afternoon, saying, "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'll be honest, I never could've imagined anything like this."
In her statement, Whitmer also took aim at President Donald Trump for declining to condemn white supremacy groups during the first presidential debate.
"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," she said. "'Stand back and stand by,' he told them. '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 continued, "So let me say this loud and clear: hatred, bigotry, and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan. And if you break the law, or conspire to commit heinous acts of violence against anyone – we will find you, we will hold you accountable, and we will bring you to justice."
It is unclear if the suspects have obtained legal representation who can speak on their behalf or have entered pleas at this time.
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