It's been almost six months since President Trump encouraged his supporters to "LIBERATE MICHIGAN" in response to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's state closure orders aimed to help stem the (still) growing tide of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the FBI this week, at least six aspiring domestic terrorists took the president at his word, going so far as to purchase weapons and discuss plans to kidnap Whitmer as part of a "violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components."
The six men — Michigan residents Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta, as well as Barry Croft of Delaware — have been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, according to a federal affidavit filed Thursday.
"The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the FBI wrote in the court document.
“They discussed different ways of achieving this goal, from peaceful endeavors to violent actions," the authoring agent continued. "At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer."
The alleged plot was uncovered thanks to an undercover FBI informant who was present at an in-person meeting in July to discuss the idea.
In early September, construction began to upgrade the security measures at the Michigan Governor's Residence where Whitmer lives.
"As a matter of practice, we’re constantly reviewing security protocols and adjusting as needed," a spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police said at the time. "We don’t comment on specific threats against the governor nor do we provide information about security measures."
According to the court documents, the conspirators in the kidnapping plot had not only discussed storming the state capitol with several hundred men, but had already purchased a number of items — including tasers and night vision goggles — to aid in their planned capture of Whitmer, whom they allegedly planned to ferry over the border to Wisconsin in order to "stand trial."
This past spring, Michigan was the site of some of the most contentious anti-closure protests, which saw armed demonstrators lay siege to the state capitol in an effort to intimidate lawmakers into reopening the state in the midst of the pandemic.
In a tweeted statement responding to the kidnapping plot, state Sen. Mike Shirkey (R), the state senate majority leader, said he condemned the alleged plotters, calling them "criminals and traitors."
In April, however, Shirkey stood before one of the armed crowds of anti-government protesters and exclaimed that "these groups need to stand up and test that assertion of authority by the government."
"We need you now more than ever," he added.