Six men have been charged over an alleged attempt to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home after months of plotting, consulting and training with members of a militia group.
The FBI revealed it thwarted the plot to violently overthrow the Michigan government and take hostage Governor Whitmer, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump.
Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were arrested and charged with conspiring to kidnap Governor Whitmer.
The men who are residents of Michigan, with the exception of Mr Croft, could face life in prison if convicted.
The FBI first got wind that a group of individuals “were discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law-enforcement components” in early 2020, according to an affidavit by special agent Richard Trask released by the FBI on Thursday.
It comes amid high political tensions in the US and warnings from law enforcement about an increasing threat from militia and far-right groups in America.
The alleged plot included reaching out to the Michigan militia group Wolverine Watchmen, which was not named in the affidavit.
Seven men connected to Wolverine Watchmen were charged under Michigan’s anti-terrorism law.
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” the FBI wrote.
“The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbours and spread their message.”
That’s when Mr Fox reached out to Wolverine Watchmen after making Governor Whitmer the target of their operation.
“Fox said he needed ‘200 men’ to storm the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, and take hostages, including the Governor. Fox explained they would try the Governor of Michigan for ‘treason,’ and he said they would execute the plan before the November 2020 elections,” according to federal officials.
In September, Mr Fox posted in an encrypted chat that he did not want a final training exercise to be held in the last week of October because it would not leave enough time to execute the kidnapping before the US election on November 3, Mr Trask said.
“The group agreed to use the time until the final training exercise to raise money for explosives and other supplies,” Mr Trask wrote in the affidavit.
In a televised press conference, Governor Whitmer said: “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.”
She blamed Mr Trump for not condemning 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,” she said.
“‘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.”
Armed right-wing militia groups protested against Governor Whitmer’s extension of stay-at-home orders earlier this year.