Six conspirators were charged with attempts to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday, as well as discussing other ways to overthrow Michigan’s government.
HEARTLAND, MI—Heartland is a quiet and safe community in Livingston County, but in the late hours Wednesday, law enforcement raided a home there, just an hour from the state’s capitol of Lansing.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations and Michigan State Police found themselves in the home of self-styled militiamen planning an abduction of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Their intent was to take her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin and put her on “trial” for actions they deemed to be unacceptable.
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit filed Thursday. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”
The FBI detailed an attempt by six men to violently overthrow Michigan’s government and kidnap Gov. Whitmer. The six men have been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
The planned attack is action giving form to the violent rhetoric of recent armed protests in Lansing opposing Gov. Whitmer’s widely popular attempts to curb the spread of the pandemic coronavirus and protect the public health of Michiganders. In spring, protests routinely came with threats of violence, and armed gunmen stormed the Capitol Building in late April.
During that time, the FBI began investigating Facebook activity surrounding threats to Gov. Whitmer that led to charges against at least one other credible threat. But this conspiracy went far deeper, and included what amounted to the violent overthrow of the Michigan government.
In a recorded meeting of the conspirators and like-minded people from other states in Dublin, Ohio, they described the forcible recreation of Michigan’s government.
“The group talked about creating a society that followed the US Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the FBI agent wrote. “They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions. At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the US Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.”
That ideation was, as summer came, spiraling into intent to act. Conspirators were attempting to recruit militia groups, like those present at the spring and summer protests in Lansing, to assist with their plan, and one member of the group made more direct comments on social media in which he referred to Gov. Whitmer as “this tyrant b****.”
“I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something,” he said, according to the court affidavit. “You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do.”
By July, the plan was coming together.
“Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f***ing governor. Just grab the b****. Because at that point, we do that, dude—it’s over,” the affidavit quoted one conspirator as saying.
The men spent their summer engaged in combat drills, firearms training, and attempts to make improvised explosives.
The FBI was able to secure a confidential source who expressed concerns with the plan when the conspirators began discussing the necessity of killing police officers to accomplish their aims. That informant recounted the group discussing attacking a Michigan State Police facility and shooting up Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home.
The inspiration for the planned attack is unknown, but the plan was forged after the violent rhetoric of spring protests where Gov. Whitmer was hanged in effigy, President Donald Trump called on his supporters to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” and protesters vowed to water the tree of liberty with Whitmer’s blood.
As of 5 p.m. Eastern, 13 had been charged in connection with the conspiracy.
This is a developing story; check back for more information at The ‘Gander as it becomes available.