FBI aborts plot to kidnap Democratic governor of Michigan

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13 people arrested in a plot that included kidnapping Gretchen Whitmer, attacking the State Capitol and starting a civil war

A total of 13 people have been arrested in Michigan, accused of trying to attack the state Capitol, instigating a civil war and trying to kidnap the state governor, less than a month before the presidential election. The surprising plot, aborted in two parallel operations, involved months of preparation and was guided by libertarian beliefs and the conviction that it is urgent to limit the power of governments.

Six of the detainees, in an FBI operation, are accused of plotting the kidnapping of the Democratic Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, in reaction to the “uncontrolled power” they believe she wields. The suspects, five residents of Michigan and one in Delaware , conducted training with firearms and explosives, and had been monitoring Whitmer’s movements for months, being charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a crime that can carry life imprisonment.

In another operation, run by the state police, seven other people have been arrested under Michigan counterterrorism laws for providing material support for terrorist activities, being gang members and using weapons with a criminal record. They are also accused of advertising the homes of police officers, and threatening to unleash a “civil war” leading to the “collapse of society.” The detainees were affiliated, according to the prosecution, to an extremist group called Wolverine Watchmen

Those arrested by federal agents wanted to carry out the kidnapping, always according to the FBI, before the elections. And they planned to buy explosives this week. The detainees held meetings, some in a secret basement of a store accessed by a trapdoor hidden under a carpet, to discuss the creation of a society “that would abide only by the United States Bill of Rights of 1791” and in which they could be “self-sufficient.” In one of those meetings, the need for more personal resources was discussed, according to the FBI, and one of the members of the group contacted a local group in which the feds already had an informant.

The FBI was able to learn about the movements and motivations of the group thanks to the interception of encrypted messages and the infiltration of undercover agents into the group. The group’s plans were violent and ambitious. There was talk, for example, of the need to have “200 men” to attack the Lansing Capitol, which houses Michigan’s executive branch, and take hostages, including Whitmer, who would be tried for “treason.” They also considered, according to the FBI, “shooting into” the governor’s vacation home or trying to kidnap her just outside the house.

“When I put my hand on the Bible and swore in my position 22 months ago, I knew the work was going to be tough,” Whitmer said, in an appearance after the news of the arrests. “But to be honest, I could never have imagined something like this.”

Whitmer, 49, has become an emerging figure in the Democratic Party, to the point where she was chosen to answer the president in the State of the Union address. Her notoriety is due, in part, to her management of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led her to repeatedly clash with Donald Trump. The president has been highly critical of restrictive measures imposed by the Whitmer government to contain the spread of the virus. “Free Michigan!” Trump tweeted in April.

His strict measures to contain the pandemic, of which 145,000 cases have been verified in the state, has put Whitmer in the crosshairs of right-wing extremists. Thousands of people protested against the measures in the spring and, in May, a group of armed protesters stormed the Michigan capitol to demand the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown measures.

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