1 of 2 | Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has drawn opposition for her anti-pandemic measures placed in Michigan. File Photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The FBI said in court documents Thursday it thwarted a plot by armed militia members to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and force her to "stand trial."
The governor, speaking in an afternoon news conference, called the suspects "sick and depraved."
In an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Michigan, FBI agents said six men connected to militia groups in the state plotted to "take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution" and to abduct Whitmer.
The defendants were identified as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. The affidavit was filed shortly after a team of FBI agents raided a home in Hartland Township, Mich.
Agents said the plot included recruiting hundreds of followers to storm the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on a date before the Nov. 3 election, taking Whitmer hostage and putting her on trial for "treason."
The men also discussed countering law enforcement responders with Molotov cocktails, the affidavit said.
Using information gathered by an informant, the FBI said some of the militia members also twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer's vacation home in western Michigan and discussed kidnapping her there.
Whitmer offered thanks to local law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in the operation to uncover the plot.
"When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard. But I'll be honest, I never would have imagined anything like this," she said.
"As a mom of two teenage daughters and three stepsons, my husband and I are eternally grateful to everyone who put themselves in harm's way to keep our family safe."
Whitmer, a Democrat, has drawn vehement opposition from militia groups and others for instituting COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Armed protesters in April filled the streets around the Capitol in a demonstration opposing the measures.
They were given encouragement by President Donald Trump, who tweeted, "Liberate Michigan."
"The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire," Trump tweeted on May 1. "These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."
Whitmer spoke against Trump during his Thursday news conference, saying he stoked distrust and fear when he "refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militias." She said his comments telling the so-called Proud Boys group to "stand back and stand by" was seen as a rallying cry to such groups.
"Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan," she said.
Whitmer's anti-pandemic measures have also been opposed by Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature, which for months has been waging a legal battle against them.
In a landmark ruling last week, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled she violated her constitutional authority by continuing to issue orders to combat COVID-19 without the approval of state lawmakers.
State Senate Majority leader Mike Shirkey condemned the militia members Thursday.
"A threat against our governor is a threat against us all," he tweeted. "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."
Whitmer said her pandemic-related orders involved making "gut-wrenching decisions."
"As your governor, I will not stop doing everything in my power to keep you and your family safe," Whitmer said.
"You don't have to agree with me but I do ask one thing: Never forget that we are all in this together. Let's show a little kindness and a lot more empathy. Let's give one another a little grace and let's take care of each other."