Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on Sunday she remains “concerned about safety and integrity going up to this election” because of the Republican White House’s “rhetoric” after six suspects were arrested and charged with attempting to kidnap Whitmer.
“I am protected by the Michigan State Police, and they are an incredibly professional organization, but I do believe that there are still serious threats that groups like this group, these domestic terrorists, are finding comfort and support in the rhetoric coming out of Republican leadership in the White House to our state house, so I remain concerned about safety and integrity going up to this election,” Whitmer, a Democrat, told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
On Thursday, authorities revealed an alleged plot by an armed militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen to kidnap the embattled governor, who faced heavy criticism from such groups in recent months over her coronavirus pandemic orders.
In a press conference on the kidnapping plot, Whitmer brought up the president’s Sept. 29 comment that the far-right Proud Boys group should “stand back and stand by.”
In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)
“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. “‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them. … Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.”
The FBI, however, has released no evidence showing that Trump’s words inspired the alleged conspirators.
She added that when “leaders meet with, encourage and fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit.”
Trump responded to her comments in a series of Friday tweets, saying, “I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!”
The six alleged militia members who plotted Whitmer’s kidnapping held meetings and discussions on Facebook that a wired, undercover FBI informant was able to document since early in 2020, according to officials.
The men could face life sentences in prison if convicted.
On top of the six men arrested and charged with attempting to kidnap Whitmer – Brandon Caserta, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks and Daniel Harris – the FBI also arrested and charged seven other men for state terrorism threats targeting law enforcement officers.
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin and Louis Casiano contributed to this report.