Whitmer responds to kidnapping plot, rebukes Trump's refusal to condemn hate groups

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday she knew her job would be difficult but she never imagined she would be subjected to a plot to kidnap and possibly kill her.

During a statement from the Capitol in Lansing, Whitmer thanked the officers involved for arresting a total of 13 men on federal and state charges.

"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 have imagined anything like this," she said.

Through a combination of sources in a Michigan militia group and undercover federal agents, authorities were tracking a group's plot all summer long to kidnap Whitmer and "try" her for "treason" before the upcoming election in November. 

The group talked through encrypted chat rooms and met in Ohio, Wisconsin and even in a secret underground room in Grand Rapids. At these meetings, the FBI said the group participated in firearm trainings and tactical drills and also built IEDs. During one meeting the group even set one off one of the IED after surrounding it by human silhouette targets, the FBI said.

After months of theorizing, the group came up with a plan to blow up an overpass near Gov. Whitmer's vacation house to distract police and go kidnap her, the FBI said

The group also made a plan with an undercover agent to buy bomb supplies for $4,000. An Oct. 7 meeting was scheduled to make the purchase on Oct. 7. 

You can read more details from the case here

Whitmer said the nation shouldn't be fighting each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. She then criticized President Donald Trump for 'stoking' distrust and allowing anger to grow.

"This should be a moment for national unity, where we all pull together as Americans to meet this challenge head-on with the same might and muscle that put a man on the moon. Seeing the humanity in one another and doing our part to help our country get through this, instead, our head of state has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts stoking distrust, fomenting anger, and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division," Whitmer said. 

"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. 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. When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech they are complicit."

Whitmer and Trump have been on opposite ends of how to treat the virus all year. On Wednesday, the president called the Supreme Court ruling that Whitmer's COVID-19 executive orders were invalid a "big win" and encouraged schools and churches to open. Whitmer responded and said "Mr. President, millions of hardworking Americans are relying on you for a COVID-19 relief package. Get to work." 

Whitmer called on Trump to issue a federal mandate on face masks in July, which the president never did and he was rarely seen wearing one. 

On Thursday, Whitmer told anyone who plans a plot like this that they will be prosecuted.

"So let me say this loud and clear. Hatred bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan. If you break the law conspire to commit heinous acts of violence against anyone, we will find you. We will hold you accountable. And we will bring you to justice," Whitmer said.

Whitmer said Michigan's efforts to contain COVID-19 have been difficult but effective. 

"The destruction this virus has caused to our daily lives is immeasurable. And is already taken the lives of more than two hundred ten thousand Americans. Including over 6,800 right here in Michigan. As painful as these losses are. Our hard work and sacrifices have saved thousands of lives. We have one of the strongest economic recoveries in the nation. Make no mistake there will be more hard days ahead. But I want the people of Michigan to know this: as your governor, I will never stop doing everything in my power to keep you and your family safe. You don't have to agree with me. But I do ask one thing. Never forget that we are all in this together," Whitmer said.

On Thursday, Oct. 8 authorities executed a number of search warrants in cities all across the state of Michigan related to the case. Search warrants were executed in Grand Rapids, Hartland, Luther, Canton, Orion Township, Waterford, Belleville, Milford, Cadillac, Shelbyville, Plainwell, Zeeland, Munith, Ovid, Kalamazoo, Charlotte, Clarkston, Sterling Heights and Shelby Township, Michigan's attorney general Dana Nessel said at a news conference.

During that news conference, Nessel also announced separately that seven other men were facing state felony charges relating to the case.  

More than 200 state and federal law enforcement officials were involved in putting an end to the plot, including experts from outside Michigan. 

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, issued the following statement:

“A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all. We condemn the actions of the group of individuals that plotted against Governor Whitmer and state government. These people 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. Citizens who care about government show their passion by voting. Only terrorists resort to violence.We extend our gratitude to the men and women in law enforcement for their work to thwart this plan and reach a safe conclusion. The Governor and her family are in our thoughts in prayers,” said Shirkey.