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Plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer thwarted in Michigan

As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took steps to combat the coronavirus in Michigan, a group of extremists plotted to kidnap her and put her on "trial."
Image: Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer at the Romney Building where her office is located in Lansing, Mich., on May 18, 2020.Brittany Greeson / for The Washington Post via Getty Images file

When Michigan scrambled to address a coronavirus outbreak in the spring, tensions ran high. There was no shortage of unsettling scenes in Lansing, for example, as hundreds of protestors went to Michigan's capitol building -- many of them brandishing firearms, including military-style rifles -- to condemn efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Donald Trump sided with the armed protestors, urged Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) to give them at least some of what they wanted, and praised the protestors as "very good people."

At one point, the president went so far as to publish a tweet that read, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!"

That's what was unfolding in public. In private, as the Detroit News reported, extremist opponents of the Democratic governor were plotting to kidnap her.

The FBI says it thwarted what it described as a plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The alleged plot involved reaching out to members of a Michigan militia, according to a federal affidavit filed Thursday. The court filing also alleges the conspirators twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer's personal vacation home and discussed kidnapping her to a "secure location" in Wisconsin to stand "trial" for treason prior to the Nov. 3 election.

"Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit.

NBC News' report on this noted that at a July 27 meeting, one of the men charged in the plot said, in reference to the possible kidnapping of Whitmer, "Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f---ing governor. Just grab the b----. Because at that point, we do that, dude -- it's over."

According to the latest reporting, six men have been arrested, and if convicted, each faces the possibility of life in prison. Others linked to the suspects will also reportedly face charges. [Update: see below.]

"The individuals in custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan," Michigan State Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) said in a statement.

As of this afternoon, Trump has not yet commented on the developments, though Mike Shirkey, Michigan's Republican Senate majority leader and a fierce Whitmer opponent, wrote, "A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all. We condemn those who plotted against her and our government. They are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions. They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Update: To clarify, the accused in this plot are facing both state and federal criminal charges.