More than a dozen individuals associated with two militia groups were charged Thursday in connection with a violent plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Here’s a quick look at what we know so far.
Six men were charged with federal felony charges by U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Andrew Birge today for plotting to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home because of what they saw as her “uncontrolled power” during the pandemic. The men, who planned to meet up yesterday to make payments for explosives and exchange tactical gear, have been consulting and training with militia members for months, officials allege.
Another seven men also were charged by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. They are alleged to have called on members of the militia group Wolverine Watchmen to identify home addresses of law enforcement officers to target them, made threats of violence to instigate a civil war, and engage in a plot to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Whitmer.
What do we know about the investigation?
The arrests come after months of investigative work by more than 200 state and federal law enforcement officials, including experts from out of state. The investigation culminated last night with a series of search warrants and arrest warrants.
Who is involved?
The Detroit News, along with other outlets, reported earlier today that Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta received federal felony charges from Birge for their involvement in the plot. Ages and hometowns of the men were not immediately available.
Nessel has charged Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford; Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville; Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac; Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell; William Null, 38, of Shelbyville; Pete Musico, 42, of Munith; and Joseph Morrison, 42, of Munith.
What is Gov. Whitmer’s response?
During a short press conference this afternoon, Whitmer thanked law enforcement, FBI agents, and Michigan State Police troopers for their involvement in the investigation and said that this should be a time for unity, not division among Americans. “I’ve said it many times — we are not one another’s enemy. This virus is our enemy. And this enemy is relentless. It doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Young or old. Rich or poor. It doesn’t care if we’re tired of it. It threatens us all,” she said. “This should be a moment for national unity, where we all pull together as Americans to meet this challenge head-on with the same might and muscle that put a man on the moon.”
Whitmer also commented on President Trump’s remarks during last week’s debate with former vice president Joe Biden that the white nationalist Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by.” Whitmer said, “The president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups, like these two militia groups. … Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.”
Toward the end of the conference, which you can watch in full on Facebook, Whitmer said, “hatred, bigotry, and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan. If you break the law or conspire to commit heinous acts against anyone, we will find you. We will hold you accountable, and we will bring you to justice.”
What are other Michigan politicians and law enforcement officials saying?
“There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the re-emergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies,” Nessel said in a press release. “These groups often seek to recruit new members by seizing on a moment of civil unrest and using it to advance their agenda of self-reliance and armed resistance. This is more than just political disagreement or passionate advocacy, some of these groups’ mission is simply to create chaos and inflict harm upon others.”
Meanwhile, Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police, said Michigan law enforcement is committed to rooting out terrorism in any form. “We will take swift action against anyone seeking to cause violence or harm in our state,” he said. “Michigan residents can assist us in this mission by speaking up if you see suspicious activity or become aware of someone making threats. No tip is too small; don’t wait until it’s too late.”
He urges people to send confidential tips to the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center website.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan’s 8th District also released a statement condemning the alleged plotters. ” Make no mistake: This is about as far from their proclaimed patriotism as one can get. This is terrorism,” she said. “…I believe there is still a right and wrong. This plot is wrong. And it’s incumbent on all of us to stand up to oppose this behavior, and these growing threats.”