President Donald Trump continued his attacks on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday, calling the Democratic lawmaker a “dictator” as authorities announced charges against a 14th suspect in the thwarted plot to kidnap her and violently overthrow the government.
“Michigan, she has to open up. [Whitmer] wants to be a dictator in Michigan and the people can’t stand her,” Trump said Thursday in a FOX Business interview. Blasting Whitmer’s COVID-19 policies, he insisted people “want to get back to work.”
The president has repeatedly attacked Whitmer even after authorities announced last week charges against more than a dozen individuals who allegedly conspired to kidnap the state leader and put her on trial for “treason” in a “secure location” in Wisconsin.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office on Thursday charged Brian Higgins, 51, with material support of an act of terrorism for his role in the plot against Whitmer. He is among eight men tied to a militia group called Wolverine Watchmen, or associates of the group, who have been charged in the plot. Six other men were charged by the feds for allegedly conspiring with a the militia group to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home before Election Day.
The affidavit for Higgins identified those six men as belonging to the “Michigan III%ers” militia group. It also provides new details of the thwarted plot. Higgins conducted nighttime surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home, using night-vision goggles and a mounted digital dash camera in his car, it says.
In total, 14 suspects have been charged for their alleged roles in the kidnapping plot—which included tactical training with at least one local militia and several unsuccessful attempts to make bombs. The group also discussed attacking the state Capitol building and storming a police facility as part of their broader mission to “instigate a civil war.”
“While the political rhetoric in our nation may at times be divisive, I am encouraged by the united front our law enforcement community has displayed in response to this indescribable act of terror,” Nessel said in a Thursday statement. “These were very credible, and very serious threats to our elected officials and the public in general, and the swift actions taken by state and federal authorities this past week are nothing short of heroic.”
On Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask revealed that the men facing federal charges also discussed “taking out” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam during a June meeting in Ohio. During the meeting, the group discussed their outrage at the two Democratic governors’ decisions to lock down their states and discussed ways they could take matters into their own hands.
“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders,” Trask said, adding that the meeting brought together militias from at least four states.
On Thursday, Northam condemned Trump’s rhetoric, which he said is “emboldening” white supremacists.
After the charges were announced last week, Whitmer also took aim at President Donald Trump for refusing to denounce hate groups, “sowing distrust,” and “giving comfort for those who spread fear and division.”
“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage, fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit,” Whitmer said. “Hatred, bigotry, and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan.”
Trump was quick to respond to Whitmer’s criticism on Oct. 8, firing off a series of rage-filled tweets criticizing the Michigan official’s tenure in office and her decision to lock down the state to combat the pandemic. Jason Miller, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, also attacked Whitmer during a Fox News interview, stating that if the Michigan governor wants to talk about hate she should “look in the mirror” because she has “such hatred in her heart” for the president.