LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her family were at times moved around by authorities as law enforcement tracked the men who allegedly plotted for months to kidnap her, Michigan’s attorney general said Friday.
Dana Nessel disclosed the detail to “CBS This Morning.” She said the Democratic governor was consistently updated about the investigation over the past couple months.
“She was aware of things that were happening,” Nessel said. “At times, she and her family had been moved around as a result of activities that law enforcement was aware of.”
Authorities announced Thursday that they foiled a stunning plot to kidnap Whitmer in a scheme that involved months of planning and even rehearsals to snatch her from her vacation home before the Nov. 3 elections.
Six men were charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap the governor in reaction to what they viewed as her “uncontrolled power,” according to a federal complaint. Separately, seven others linked to a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in state court for allegedly seeking to storm the Michigan Capitol and seek a “civil war,” including four who allegedly helped to surveil Whitmer’s house.
The two groups trained together and planned “various acts of violence,” according to the state police.
Surveillance for the kidnapping plot took place in August and September, according to an FBI affidavit, and four of the men had planned to meet Wednesday to “make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear.”
The FBI quoted one of the men as saying Whitmer “has no checks and balances at all. She has uncontrolled power right now. All good things must come to an end.”
Authorities said the plots were stopped with the work of undercover agents and informants. The men were arrested Wednesday night. The six charged in federal court face up to life in prison if convicted. The state terrorism charges the other seven men face carry a possible 20-year sentence.
Andrew Birge, the U.S. attorney in western Michigan, called the men “violent extremists.” They discussed detonating explosive devices — including under a highway bridge — to divert police from the area near Whitmer’s vacation home and Fox bought a Taser for use in the kidnapping, Birge said.
“All of us in Michigan can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever amount to violence. Violence has been prevented today,” Detroit U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider told reporters.
A few hours later, Whitmer pinned some blame on President Donald Trump, noting that he did not condemn white supremacists in last week’s debate with Joe Biden and instead told a far-right group to “stand back and stand by.”
“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” Whitmer said.
Trump tweeted that the governor “has done a terrible job” and again called on her to “open up your state.” He said he does not tolerate any extreme violence.
Whitmer, who was considered as Biden’s running mate and is nearly halfway through a four-year term, has been widely praised for her response to the coronavirus but also sharply criticized by Republican lawmakers and people in conservative areas of the state. The Capitol has been the site of many rallies, including ones with gun-toting protesters calling for her ouster.
Whitmer put major restrictions on personal movement and the economy, although many of those limits have been lifted since spring. The governor has exchanged barbs with Trump on social media, with the president declaring in April, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” There is no indication in the criminal complaint, however, that the men were inspired by Trump.
White reported from Detroit. AP reporters Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, and John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, contributed to this story.
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