A federal jury found two men guilty of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 over protections that the Democrat had implemented in response to the pandemic, dealing a blow to the far right extremists for whom prosecutors said kidnapping Whitmer was only the first step in their plan to set off a civil war.
The two men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were reportedly leaders of the plot and were also found guilty of plotting to obtain a weapon of mass destruction. Through meetings in Ohio and drills in “shoot houses” in Wisconsin and Michigan, the men made plans to capture Whitmer at her vacation home and then detonate a bridge to throw off the police response to the kidnapping.
“You can’t just strap on an AR-15 and body armor and snatch the governor,” federal prosecutor Nils Kessler said, during closing arguments for the case. According to prosecutors, Fox told members of the group to “just grab the bitch” so that they could put her on “trial.”
Kessler added that the group’s goal went far beyond simple frustration with Whitmer. Their “ultimate goal,” Kessler said, was to “set off a second American civil war, a second American Revolution, something that they call the boogaloo. And they wanted to do it for a long time before they settled on Gov. Whitmer.”
The verdict brings an end to one of the most high profile domestic terrorist plots to come to court in recent history. It was the government’s second try at prosecuting the men; in April, a jury failed to reach a verdict on Fox and Croft, while acquitting two other men who had been charged in the plot. In the course of building a case against the men, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) implanted agents into the Michigan group, while two men in the plot pled guilty and aided prosecutors.
“Today’s verdicts prove that violence and threats have no place in our politics and those who seek to divide us will be held accountable. They will not succeed,” said Whitmer in a statement, in response to the verdict. “But we must also take a hard look at the status of our politics. Plots against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic.”
Prosecutors said in their case that Fox and Croft had been upset about protections placed by the governor in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Far right Michigan residents were indeed upset when the pandemic set in and waged armed demonstrations near the state legislature to protest the COVID protocols. At one of those protests, demonstrators had a doll meant to be Whitmer hanging from a noose.
Rage over the life-saving measures was widespread among the right early in the pandemic, and some have suggested that a tweet by then-President Donald Trump to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and his other attempts to stoke anger over pandemic protections may have helped to fuel the plot. Trump recently said that the kidnapping plot was a “fake deal.”