Adam Fox is seen in a booking photo provided by the Kent County (Mich.) Sheriff's Office. Authorities say he and several other men connected to militia groups in Michigan plotted to "take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution," as well as abduct Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Photo by Kent County Sheriff's Office/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her family were moved several times for their protection as the FBI monitored a kidnapping plot by right-wing militias, a state official said Friday.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel told CBS This Morning that law enforcement officers, who were kept apprised of the groups' movements through informants, intervened at several points during the investigation to ensure the Whitmer family's safety.
Thirteen men were charged Thursday in connection with the plot. Authorities say members of the militia group bought weapons, followed Whitmer's movements and trained to abduct her -- with the eventual aim of putting her on "trial" for treason.
The FBI described the plot as an act of domestic terrorism. Nessel said she and other authorities were troubled that the plan had moved toward an action stage.
"At times [Whitmer] and her family have been moved around as a result of activities that law enforcement was aware of," she said. "[The suspects] had all the means to do it. They had been in training exercises.
"We think they had the necessary equipment, artillery, explosives, things of that nature."
The Democratic governor said on Thursday she had been aware of the plot and pointed to President Donald Trump as part of the cause, saying he has repeatedly encouraged right-wing hate groups and armed militias.
She said Trump has consistently stoked distrust and fear, particularly last week when he failed to clearly condemn white supremacists when asked during a debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
When asked by moderator Chris Wallace whether he was willing to offer a clear and unequivocal rebuke of white supremacists, such as the so-called militant "Proud Boys," his only reply was, "stand back and standby."
Whitmer said the remark was viewed by such groups as a rallying cry. The Proud Boys, in fact, immediately added Trump's comment to its logo.
Armed protesters participate in "Operation Gridlock" near the Michigan statehouse in Lansing, Mich., on April 15. File Photo by Jeffrey Sauger/EPA-EFE
Trump answered Whitmer's accusation by saying only that she has done "a terrible job" as governor of Michigan.
Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said he's alarmed that some of the suspects in the plot appear to have participated in armed protests to oppose Whitmer's statewide restrictions earlier this year to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Trump publicly supported those "Operation Gridlock" protests in April with a tweet to "Liberate Michigan."
"These people were emboldened by President Donald Trump," Gilchrist told CNN.
"They were emboldened by the complicity and the encouragement of the leader of the Michigan Republican Party, who created the rhetorical space for them to plan these deadly actions."