Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer drew a strong line between an alleged plot to kidnap her and the rhetoric of President Donald Trump, whose recent comments have been interpreted by right-wing militia groups as encouragement.
“Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Six men involved with a militia group called Wolverine Watchmen are facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and an additional seven people are facing state charges in connection with the alleged scheme. The men wanted to “storm” the state Capitol in Lansing with 200 men to take hostages including the governor, court documents say.
Whitmer said Thursday that the suspects aimed to “possibly kill” her.
Trump failed to speak out against hate groups during his first presidential debate with Democratic contender Joe Biden last Tuesday. Pressed to condemn the Proud Boys, a group of violent right-wing extremists, Trump replied: “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.” Members of the Proud Boys quickly turned the president’s words into a T-shirt and other merchandise.
Trump also deflected criticism at the debate by claiming ― against the analysis of his own top law enforcement officials ― that the problem comes mainly “from the left wing, not the right wing.” The FBI warned as recently as two weeks ago that right-wing militia groups pose a “violent extremist threat,” particularly as the election approaches.
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