Joe Biden on Friday slammed President Donald Trump for shrugging off a thwarted plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying the "failure to condemn these folks is stunning."
Speaking at a campaign event in Southfield, Michigan, Biden lavished praise on Whitmer, who he'd considered as a running mate. "There's not a better governor in the United States of America," and "Jill and I are so grateful that the governor and her family are safe," Biden said.
Whitmer was allegedly targeted by a group of militia members who were arrested last week on charges they were plotting to kidnap her and hold her hostage before the November election. A senior federal law enforcement official said some of the individuals were found to be tied to the anti-government "boogaloo" movement.
"We're grateful to the FBI law enforcement who discovered these domestic terrorists and stopped them. And make no mistake, that's who they are, domestic terrorists, flat terrorists," Biden said after being introduced by Whitmer.
He noted that authorities have said the alleged plotters also planned "to blow up a bridge on American soil" and "threatened the lives of police officers."
"It's the sort of behavior you might expect from ISIS. It should shock the conscience of every American, every American, and the failure to condemn these folks is stunning from the outset," Biden said. "Words matter. And the words of a president particularly matter. When the president tweeted 'Liberate Michigan, Liberate Michigan,' that's the call that was heard. That was the dog whistle."
The Democratic presidential nominee was referring to a Trump tweet from April, when he encouraged people to protest against Whitmer's coronavirus-related lockdown measures in the state.
Speaking later at a drive-in rally in Detroit, Biden noted that Trump continued attacking Whitmer on the day the plot was revealed, something the former vice president called "despicable."
"What the hell is wrong with this guy?" Biden asked.
Whitmer said after the arrests that Trump's rhetoric helped fuel the fire, and she considered him "complicit."
The president, the White House and the Trump campaign all praised the FBI for breaking up the plot, but continued to pummel the Democratic governor. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany accused her of "sowing division by making these outlandish allegations."
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News Whitmer's comments were "shameful," and said, "if we want to talk about hatred, then Gov. Whitmer, go look in the mirror."
Trump then joined in on social media, tweeting that Whitmer "has done a terrible job" and "locked down" her state. "My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement" announced the foiling of a dangerous plot, he tweeted.
"Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist," Trump wrote.
"I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President!" he added in another tweet.
He's since continued criticizing her at campaign rallies.
Whitmer told NBC News on Thursday that she'd been "shocked" by the president's response.
"I think this was a moment where I heard from a lot of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, my fellow governors, Republican and Democrat, reached out to say, 'Are you OK? How's your family?'
"That's what decent people do. And unfortunately, that was not the response at the White House," she said.