Alleged plot against Michigan's Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is chilling

Article Image

Multiple people were charged in an alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, federal and state officials announced. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz reports.

Posted: Oct 10, 2020 7:01 AM
Updated: Oct 10, 2020 7:01 AM

As a prosecutor for more than 14 years, I've seen my share of criminal complaints charging every crime in the book, from murder on down. But Thursday's FBI complaint detailing the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow several state governments is uniquely chilling: It suggests that the nation has gone down a dark new road.

Six men face federal charges and seven other men face state charges in the case.

A few things jump out. First, this alleged plot, detailed by federal and state officials, was very plausible. It's frightening to contemplate, but the alleged kidnapping scheme could well have succeeded had it not been intercepted by law enforcement authorities.

This was not some inflated, FBI-generated sting and it went well beyond idle, fantastical chatter or pumped-up bluster. According to the complaint's allegations, the charged defendants held actual "field training exercises;" created and detonated a test explosive device; possessed and trained with firearms; purchased a taser for use in the attack; and conducted coordinated surveillance, during the daytime and at night, of Whitmer's vacation home.

Any sane person shudders to think what they might have done if not caught. One of the defendants allegedly said, "Snatch and grab man. Grab the f***** governor. Just grab the b****. Because at that point, we do that dude -- it's over."

Another defendant suggested, according to the complaint, "Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her." These are the alleged statements of people who are not just angry, but radicalized, militarized, and willing and able to take action.

That leads to another disturbing element of the alleged plot. The defendants' sole motivation here was political. They did not, apparently, seek money or the kind of retribution seen in many murders and murder conspiracies when the target is personally known to the defendants. Rather, they appeared to targeted Whitmer purely for extremist political purposes.

Several of the defendants allegedly discussed murdering a sitting governor or attacking the statehouse to make a political statement. Driving the point home, one of the conspirators specifically spoke of completing their attack before Election Day, officials said.

It's impossible to ignore the broader political atmosphere here. In the past few months, President Donald Trump repeatedly has declined to unequivocally condemn white supremacist groups, including during the recent presidential debate (though several days later he told Fox's Sean Hannity "I condemn all white supremacists"). And last Spring, he tweeted, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," in support of protesters -- some heavily armed -- that had rallied at the state Capitol against Whitmer's Covid-based restrictions.

The details of the plot also speak to the potential dangers of online radicalization. Several of the group members met and communicated over Facebook, officials said. And, as the alleged plot developed, the defendants corresponded with one another using encrypted platforms, according to the complaint -- their steps to avoid law enforcement detection further suggesting they had real intent to carry out the plan.

The FBI has warned that extremist groups increasingly are taking to the internet and social media to spread their message and to recruit. The alleged plot provides a tangible example of this phenomenon in action.

This case should put to rest any controversy about whether the threat of far-right extremism is real and pervasive. This case demonstrates that there are people in the United States who are allegedly eager enough to risk their own lives and liberty to carry out a coordinated attack on a public figure purely for political purposes. And our modern technology and easy access to weapons and explosives makes it all too easy for those who are committed enough to turn plans into action.

The FBI recently issued a new warning about the growing threat posed by right-wing extremist groups. Today's complaint proves, in stark and chilling detail, that the FBI was absolutely correct to sound the alarm.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 613228

Reported Deaths: 9728
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion846851338
Lake45676687
Allen32980552
Hamilton29649315
St. Joseph27531382
Elkhart24478345
Vanderburgh19610250
Tippecanoe18108141
Johnson15191295
Porter14944169
Hendricks14485250
Madison11044222
Clark10811144
Vigo10795181
Monroe9458113
Delaware9170134
LaPorte9145164
Howard8292144
Kosciusko810183
Warrick680299
Hancock6782104
Bartholomew6640100
Floyd6507110
Wayne6177162
Grant6027116
Dubois558680
Boone556468
Morgan548695
Henry511464
Marshall506984
Cass486964
Dearborn486545
Noble475659
Jackson427747
Shelby420781
Lawrence393780
Clinton375044
Gibson374459
Harrison353045
DeKalb349864
Montgomery347654
Knox336239
Miami324544
Steuben315046
Whitley311126
Wabash305851
Adams302836
Ripley300546
Putnam298950
Huntington294860
Jasper291734
White275143
Daviess271774
Jefferson266238
Decatur249583
Fayette248648
Greene242262
Posey241028
Wells236951
LaGrange230062
Scott226839
Clay224332
Randolph215248
Jennings200636
Sullivan193533
Spencer193022
Washington188023
Fountain184927
Starke176444
Jay168623
Owen167637
Fulton164830
Orange160935
Carroll159715
Rush156318
Perry155929
Vermillion149734
Franklin149333
Tipton133133
Parke13088
Pike118526
Blackford111822
Pulaski97837
Newton92021
Brown88335
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin74913
Warren6857
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4977
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 868656

Reported Deaths: 10768
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102154707
Cuyahoga865201153
Hamilton64744448
Montgomery43516419
Summit35250762
Lucas31663631
Butler31268232
Stark26096443
Warren19830142
Lorain19296229
Mahoning17471339
Lake16250154
Clermont16128112
Delaware1453680
Licking13326137
Fairfield1294981
Trumbull12920317
Greene12174141
Medina11732168
Clark11058265
Wood10457158
Allen9988127
Portage9454111
Miami924473
Richland9236118
Marion7486113
Tuscarawas7440183
Columbiana7409124
Pickaway732150
Wayne7111172
Muskingum710342
Erie6221130
Ross5558100
Hancock555292
Scioto542764
Geauga515955
Darke473492
Lawrence460658
Union456928
Ashtabula456473
Sandusky439562
Mercer435089
Seneca433866
Huron432841
Auglaize424164
Shelby422522
Jefferson422469
Belmont421145
Washington394240
Athens38389
Putnam378075
Madison358129
Knox356122
Ashland349038
Fulton340443
Defiance334486
Crawford325774
Preble322737
Brown315821
Logan312132
Ottawa296543
Clinton291543
Williams280367
Highland279018
Jackson265845
Guernsey257126
Champaign253428
Fayette239530
Morrow23464
Perry233718
Holmes226774
Henry221953
Hardin215533
Coshocton206922
Van Wert203445
Gallia199826
Wyandot196751
Pike178017
Adams177715
Hocking173224
Carroll157616
Paulding145321
Noble121040
Meigs109724
Monroe102232
Harrison89921
Morgan83931
Vinton71314
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 24°
Angola
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 23°
Huntington
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 31°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 24°
Lima
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 26°
More Clouds than Sun Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events