Six men have been charged by federal prosecutors for allegedly planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, apparently in an insane plot against overreaching state government. Seven others, linked to a militia group, are facing state charges. The details in an FBI affidavit suggest these people were serious.
The federal court filing says a group of men scoped out Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home and estimated police response times. They built an explosive, wrapped it in pennies, and tested it “in a clearing surrounded by human silhouette targets.” One of them said he bought a stun gun recently. He referred to the Governor as a “tyrant” and spoke of taking her to a secure location for “trial.”
This is tin-hat crazy, and authorities have a duty to act when basement conspiracy chatter becomes overt acts toward a criminal violation. Threats against public officials in particular need to be taken seriously in these polarized times. Recall the shooting by a Bernie Sanders supporter that grievously wounded GOP Rep. Steve Scalise in 2017.
Thankfully, police, undercover agents and the U.S. Justice Department were onto the plot in the Whitmer case. Credit as well to their confidential sources, one identified as a disaffected militia member. In June conspirators met in a basement “accessed through a trap door hidden under a rug,” the court filing says. Cellphones were collected beforehand to prevent monitoring. Yet a confidential source was wearing a wire.
Ms. Whitmer has exceeded her legal authority in the pandemic, and often in arrogant fashion. But the recourse for her critics is politics and the law, not violence and kidnapping. The Michigan Supreme Court proved that point last week by ruling that Ms. Whitmer violated state law in redeclaring the same pandemic emergency after 28 days without the consent of the Legislature.
This shouldn’t be a political story. And though Ms. Whitmer is a Democrat, leaders of the GOP Legislature didn’t mince words. “A threat against our Governor,” the Senate Majority Leader said, “is a threat against us all.”
For her part, Ms. Whitmer thanked law enforcement. Then she couldn’t resist essentially blaming the plot on President Trump. At last week’s debate, she said, he “refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups, like these two Michigan militia groups.”
But Mr. Trump has condemned such groups numerous times. Ms. Whitmer should be thanking the Trump Justice Department.
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Appeared in the October 9, 2020, print edition.