WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday night slammed Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for not saying ‘thank you’ after the federal government charged six people with conspiring to kidnap her in an alleged domestic terrorist plot.
Seven additional people are also facing state charges pursuant to Michigan’s anti-terrorism act in connection to the alleged plot.
Officials said the men arrested have ties to a far-right militia group, who were unhappy, in part, about Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions, and called her a “tyrant.”
Whitmer “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,” Trump tweeted.
He continued, “My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced” they “foiled a dangerous plot” against Whitmer and “Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist.
In remarks Thursday during a news conference, Whitmer did thank law enforcement and prosecutors for thwarting the plot and pursuing criminal charges “to bring these sick and depraved men to justice.”
She criticized the president by saying he has not done enough to condemn hate groups “like these two Michigan militia groups” in the country and accused him of “stoking distrust,” “fomenting anger” and emboldening groups who “spread fear and hatred and division.”
Officials say the 13 men arrested this week in the kidnapping plot are all members or acquaintances of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group. In addition, all have been tied to a larger scheme — attempting to foment a civil war — according to investigators.
Members of the group had discussed storming the Capitol Building to kidnap Whitmer and other would-be hostages, considered shooting up Whitmer’s home, discussed setting off a bomb to divert police away from the kidnapping, according to officials, who also said the men tested an explosive and begun training to achieve those ends.
During the news conference, Whitmer who often clashes with Trump, resurfaced the president’s comments during the first presidential debate when Trump told the Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by.”
“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer continued, “When our leader speaks, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”
Trump said Thursday on Twitter that he does “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!”
Appearing on CNN Thursday, before the president’s tweets, Whitmer said she’s asked Republicans in her state and the White House to decrease the level of incendiary rhetoric that she said helped initiate the alleged plot against her
“We know every time that this White House identifies me or takes a shot at me, we see an increase in rhetoric online, violent rhetoric, and so there’s always a connection and certainly it’s something that we’ve been watching. But this took it to a whole new level,” the governor said.
Trump returned to the issue during an interview of Fox News after sending his tweets Thursday night, saying, “It was my Justice Department that arrested” the men, “But instead she goes and does her little political act.”
Democratic nominee Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday that there is “throughline” from Trump’s “tolerance of hate, vengeance, and lawlessness” to the plot against Whitmer.
In early April, just a few weeks into restrictions around the country to fend against the coronavirus, Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” along with other states in apparent opposition to those governor’s stay-at-home orders.
The former vice president said “That call was heard”, and the alleged kidnapping plan is “the kind of twisted plot we expect from ISIS, but now it’s here at home.”
Contributing: Paul Egan,Tresa Baldas, Dacie Moran Detroit Free Press