Speed Reads

Michigan militia plot

Militants arrested in plot to kidnap Michigan governor were incensed over COVID-19 gym closures, FBI says

The Justice Department announced Thursday that FBI agents and Michigan state law enforcement had arrested six "violent extremists" in a well-developed plot that involved kidnapping Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) before the Nov. 3 election, taking her to Wisconsin, and putting her on "trial" for treason. Michigan authorities concurrently arrested seven other men, members of the "anti-government, anti-law enforcement militia group" the Wolverine Watchmen, for planning actions "intended to instigate a civil war."

The 13 suspects had trained together and planned "various acts of violence," state police said. The six men arrested on federal charges of conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer — allegedly led by Adam Fox, 37, and Barry Croft, 44 — face up to life in prison if convicted. The seven militants could spend 20 years in jail on state terrorism charges.

Fox, according to the FBI, was particularly incensed that Whitmer had ordered gyms closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. He and his co-conspirators started planning their assault in June and had decided on kidnapping Whitmer from her vacation home, possibly blowing up bridges to slow police from responding, by late August, the indictment says. Fox and three other suspects were arrested Wednesday when the met with undercover FBI agents to "make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear."

At least three of the 13 defendants were among the armed protesters who entered the Michigan Capitol in late April to protest Whitmer's stay-at-home order, according to state Attorney General Dana Nessel's office. WXYZ TV Detroit identified two of them standing in the Senate balcony.

"I think that those protests were used actually as recruiting stations to add more members and to find people that were angry with the governor, angry with the government, and frankly, I think encouraged by the words of our president," Nessel said Thursday. "The people that we charged are affiliated with this Wolverine Watchmen group," she added. "But there are multiple white supremacy groups and militia groups that have been acting in accordance with one another. ... This effort to have a mass uprising nationally is something that we should be very concerned about because, again, it's not just a Michigan problem, this is an American problem."