Thirteen people, including seven men associated with the Wolverine Watchmen militia, have been arrested in connection with alleged plots to kidnap the Michigan governor and attack the state Capitol building, prosecutors said Thursday.
The group plotted to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and frequent target of Republican President Donald Trump’s wrath, ahead of the November 3 presidential election, according to an FBI affidavit released Thursday.
“Our efforts have revealed plans developed to endanger the lives of law enforcement officials, government officials and the general public,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a conference. press to announce the charges.
U.S. internal security memos in recent months have warned that violent domestic extremists could pose a threat to election-related targets, a concern exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, political tensions, civil unrest and disinformation campaigns at abroad.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told congressional hearings in September that his agency was investigating violent domestic extremists, including white supremacists and anti-fascist groups. Wray said the bulk “of the investigations” involved white supremacist groups.
Andrew Birge, the US attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said the FBI became aware through social media that a group of people were discussing the “violent overthrow” of the Michigan government, which sparked an investigation by several. month which relied on confidential sources within the group.
The group of six federally indicted – Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta – could face life in prison if found guilty of attempting to kidnap Whitmer , said Birge.
“Fox and Croft in particular … discussed high explosive devices to distract police from the area of the house and Fox even inspected the underside of a Michigan highway bridge for places to sit an explosive,” he said. Birge said, referring to planning for Whitmer’s target. home.
Birge said law enforcement arrested several of the suspected conspirators “as they gathered on the east side of the state to pool funds for explosives and trade tactical equipment.”
ACTION CALENDAR BEFORE ELECTION
At the same press conference, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office had filed additional charges against seven men affiliated with the Wolverine Watchmen militia suspected of violating state anti-terrorism law by conspiring to kidnap the governor and spread violence.
“Those in detention are suspected of trying to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, of uttering threats of violence intended to trigger a civil war,” Nessel said .
According to the FBI affidavit, Fox had indicated on numerous occasions that he wanted to kidnap Whitmer before the national election on November 3. In a recorded phone call in June, Fox said he would try Whitmer for “treason” after taking her hostage, the affidavit says.
In a June video that was broadcast live on a private Facebook group, Fox called Whitmer a “tyrant bitch” for restricting access to gyms due to the coronavirus.
“I don’t know, boys, we have to do something. You guys connect with me on our other tracking system, give me some ideas of what we can do,” Fox said on the video. , according to the affidavit.
Whitmer has been targeted by Trump for his efforts to enforce coronavirus-related social distancing measures, and he tweeted in April, “RELEASE MICHIGAN.”
Matthew Schneider, U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said the arrests should send a message that violence will not be tolerated.
“All of us in Michigan may disagree on politics, but those disagreements should never, ever be equated with violence,” Schneider said at the press conference.