Thirteen men have been arrested on charges of conspiring to kidnap the Michigan governor, attack the state legislature and threaten law enforcement, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Seven of the thirteen suspects belong to the an anti-government militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen.
The arrested plotted to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has clashed publicly with Republican President Donald Trump over state coronavirus restrictions, ahead of next month’s presidential election, according to state and federal criminal complaints.
Prosecutors said the conspirators discussed recruiting a force of 200 supporters to storm the state capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, but later switched to a plan to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home.
At a news conference, Whitmer accused Trump of fomenting political extremism, citing his comments during last week’s US presidential debate against Joe Biden in which Trump declined to condemn white supremacists and instead called for members of the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
When our leaders meet with, encourage and fraternize with domestic terrorists they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit,” Whitmer said.
Trump lashed back at Whitmer on Twitter late on Thursday, saying the governor “has done a terrible job” and casting her as being ungrateful to his administration.
“My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced … today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist,” Trump wrote.
Internal US security memos in recent months have warned that violent domestic extremists could pose a threat to election-related targets, a concern heightened by political tensions, civil unrest and foreign disinformation campaigns.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in September that his agency was conducting investigations into domestic extremists, including white supremacists and anti-fascist groups.
The FBI became aware through social media in early 2020 of groups discussing the “violent overthrow” of multiple state governments and used confidential sources to track their movements, according to court records.