Federal investigators uncovered and thwarted a plot planned by six individuals, some of whom were part of a militia in Michigan planning to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Four of the six men were planning to meet on Wednesday to pay for explosives as part of their plot to abduct Whitmer. The FBI arrested all six individuals on Wednesday night.
The men had planned to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home and transport her to Wisconsin, where they would set up their own tribunal and try her for treason. They believed that Whitmer had exercised “uncontrolled power” in issuing emergency orders related to preventing the spread of coronavirus in Michigan.
Five of the six men — Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, according to court documents — are from Michigan. A sixth member of the group, Barry Croft, is from Delaware.
The affidavit related to their arrests states that two of the men involved first conceived of the idea to take action against Whitmer while meeting with about 13 other individuals from other states in Dublin, Ohio. That gathering reportedly was to discuss the creation of a new society with a foundation in the U.S. Bill of Rights “where they could be self-sufficient,” which suggests that the group held anti-government views. The group reportedly discussed peaceful and violent methods of achieving their ends, including murdering leaders they viewed as “tyrants” or possibly “taking” a governor hostage.
Before agreeing on any action, the group decided it needed to increase its numbers. Upon returning to Michigan, Fox reached out to a militia group in the state, believing some members might be receptive to his and Croft’s views. Four members from that militia joined him and Croft in formulating their eventual plan.
The group originally intended to recruit 200 other men to storm the capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, to kidnap Whitmer and others but later shifted its plan to focus on Whitmer alone, whom they planned to try to abduct from her summer home.
“Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch,” Fox is quoted as saying regarding their plan, according to authorities.
The idea had gotten far enough along in the planning stages that the men had already surveilled Whitmer’s property on at least two occasions, once in August and again in September. A final training exercise was planned to take place in late October, with the actual kidnapping of the governor set to happen sometime before the election.
Each of the men involved, if convicted, faces up to a lifetime in prison.
Though the group’s political motivations at this time are unclear, it is believed that their original intent to take control of the Michigan capitol building may have been inspired by the incidents of last April, when far right militia, some of them armed with assault rifles, barged into the building to protest the governor’s emergency public health orders. In May, there was another protest at the capitol where violent imagery against the governor — including a doll meant to represent Whitmer shown hanging from a noose — was on full display.
Just before the protest in April, President Donald Trump, who had publicly feuded with Whitmer over her criticisms of his administration’s response to COVID-19, tweeted out to his followers in the Great Lakes State to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” Many at the time had condemned Trump’s words and warned that they likely would incite violence against Whitmer and others in the state.