Six men were arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and violently overthrow the state government, federal authorities said Thursday. The men, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta, all met at a Second Amendment rally in Lansing in June and allegedly contacted a militia called the Wolverine Watchmen for help. In the court filing, the men are accused of plotting to take Whitmer to a "secure location" in Wisconsin until she stood "trial" for treason before the November election.
The charges followed a months-long investigation that began earlier this year when FBI agents began tracking individuals who discussed overthrowing state and local governments, according to The Detroit News. In June, agents tracked Croft, Fox, and 13 others to a meeting in Dublin, Ohio. A paid FBI informant attended the event, where the group "talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient," an FBI agent wrote. "They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions. At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer."
Fox then reached out to a Michigan militia group, which is not named in the court filing. The FBI began tracking the militia in March when local law enforcement learned their members tried to track addresses for local officers. "At the time, the FBI interviewed a member of the militia group who was concerned about the group's plans to target and kill police officers, and that person agreed to become a (confidential source)," the agent wrote.
The court affidavit also notes Fox published a Facebook video in which he complained about Whitmer's COVID-19 restrictions, calling her a "tyrant b—" and saying his followers "gotta do something." He invited people to "link wit me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what to do."
The documents also detailed two surveillance trips to Whitmer's vacation home, first on Aug. 29 and then on the weekend of Sept. 12-13. The group allegedly made plans for a final training exercise in October before deciding this was too close to the election. Instead, they started raising money for explosives and other supplies, including a Taser. The documents did not state when the kidnapping was planned for.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also announced state charges against seven other individuals allegedly linked to the Wolverine Watchmen. They face charges under the state anti-terrorism act. The six men facing federal charges could face life in prison if convicted.
"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 could've imagined anything like this," Whitmer said in a statement Thursday, reports CNN. She went on to thank law enforcement for thwarting the plot and criticized President Donald Trump for failing to condemn far-right groups.
"Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups," Whitmer said, referring to Trump's comments at the first presidential debate. "'Stand back and stand by,' he told them. '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. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight."