The plot to kidnap a US governor: Everything you need to know

Thirteen people have been arrested in a takedown of suspected plots to kidnap the governor of Michigan, attack the State Capitol building and incite violence.

Gretchen Whitmer, the governor who was allegedly targeted, has linked the plots with President Trump’s rhetoric – saying his past comments had been a “rallying cry”.

Seven of those charged have been found to be associated with the “boogaloo” movement – whose self-described members have said they want to incite a second US civil war.

Here’s what we know about the suspected plots in Michigan.

Who are the people who allegedly wanted to kidnap Ms Whitmer and attack the State Capitol building?

Gretchen Whitmer has said 'hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the state of Michigan'. File pic
Image:Gretchen Whitmer has said ‘hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the state of Michigan’. File pic

Six of the suspects – Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta – were arrested on Wednesday and face life in prison if convicted.

They were charged with plotting to overthrow Michigan’s government and kidnap the governor.

They had allegedly been training with seven militiamen – who planned to target law enforcement and attack the State Capitol building.

It is not clear if the first group has a name – but the seven militiamen who were also arrested are associated with the Wolverine Watchmen group.

Wolverine Watchmen believes in the “boogaloo” movement, which is largely dedicated to eradicating the government and killing law enforcement officers.

Self-described members of the movement have committed acts of violence and killed police officers in the US in recent months, often in attempts to ignite what they believe will be a second civil war.

Who is the governor of Michigan?

Gretchen Whitmer has been the Democrat governor of the state since 2019.

The 49-year-old was praised by some for her response to the coronavirus outbreak after she imposed major restrictions on personal movement and on the economy.

However, she has also been the target of extreme vitriol from far-right groups over her handling of the pandemic.

Ms Whitmer has linked the suspected plot to kidnap her to President Trump’s rhetoric.

Just hours after the arrests were announced on Thursday, she said that the president’s words had been a “rallying cry” for extremists.

“When our leaders speak, their words matter,” Ms Whitmer said. “They carry weight.”

There is so far no indication in the criminal complaint that the men arrested were inspired by Mr Trump.

People gather on the Capitol's steps to express their unhappiness with Governor Gretchen Whitmer's Stay Safe, Stay Home executive order on April 15, 2020 in Lansing, Michigan
Image:People gather on the Capitol’s steps to express their opposition to Ms Whitmer’s coronavirus measures earlier this year

Why did the six men want to abduct Ms Whitmer?

The FBI has quoted one of the accused as saying Ms Whitmer “has no checks and balances at all. She has uncontrolled power right now. All good things must come to an end”.

In a video livestreamed to a private Facebook group in June, Adam Fox was seen complaining about the judicial system and restrictions against gym openings due to COVID-19.

According to a criminal complaint, he said: “I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something. You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do.”

The criminal complaint stated: “Fox said that after kidnapping the governor, the group would remove her to a secure location in Wisconsin for ‘trial’.”

FBI 'foils plot' to kidnap US governor as six 'violent extremists' charged

FBI ‘foils plot’ to kidnap US governor as six ‘violent extremists’ charged

How did the group allegedly plan to carry out the kidnapping?

The suspects are said to have plotted it for months.

They are even said to have rehearsed the attack in August and September, after having training with the Wolverine Watchmen group.

Fox and Croft have been accused of being the ringleaders, and footage of a basement where Fox was living has been posted on Twitter by Susan Samples, from WOODTV in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

At a 27 July meeting, Fox and an informant are said to have discussed a possible kidnapping of Ms Whitmer, with the defendant allegedly saying: “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f****** governor. Just grab the b****. Because at that point, we do that, dude – it’s over.”

@WOODTV Adam Fox had been living in basement of vac shack. Owner let him stay because Fox was homeless and had dogs. Fox had been employee off and on at vac shack for 17 years. Owner fielding calls from CNN, NY Times

— SusanSamples (@SusanSamples) October 8, 2020

Fox had initially said he needed 200 men to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including the governor, the FBI has said.

It is claimed he wanted to execute the plan before the US election on 3 November.

However, the group later shifted its focus to targeting the governor’s holiday home.

Prosecutors have said two members of the group had discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from Ms Whitmer’s residence.

The prosecutors allege one of the two men had even inspected the underside of a bridge for places to put an explosive.

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How did the FBI foil the alleged plot?

The arrests grew out of an inquiry that began in March and focused on militia groups discussing the “violent overthrow” of certain government and law enforcement officials.

Informants and undercover agents were involved in the investigation.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told a news conference: “Our efforts uncovered elaborate plans to endanger the lives of law enforcement officers, government officials and the broader public.”

What is the president saying?

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Donald Trump “has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate”.

“Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations,” she said. “America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.”

Later, the president tweeted: “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities.

“The Federal Government provided tremendous help to the Great People of Michigan. My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan.

“Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist-while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities…

“…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! Governor Whitmer-open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!”

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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