Trump Attacks Michigan Gov. Whitmer After His Supporters Conspire to Kidnap Her

“I’m not going to waste my time arguing with the president. But I will always hold him accountable. Because when our leaders speak, their words carry weight.”

Trump Attacks Michigan Gov. Whitmer After His Supporters Conspire to Kidnap Her
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan)

Thirteen men have been charged in connection with a conspiracy to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

The men were all members of a right-wing militia group calling themselves the Wolverine Watchmen. Six of the men were charged at the federal level for kidnapping; the other seven were charged at the state, under Michigan’s anti-terrorism law.

After news broke of the arrests, rather than rally around Whitmer, President Trump tweeted, “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job” and continued to criticize her in subsequent tweets. (Trump has previously referred to Whitmer as “that Woman from Michigan” and “Half-Whitmer.”)

Whitmer published an opinion editorial in The Washington Post on Friday in which she stated:

“I’m not going to waste my time arguing with the president. But I will always hold him accountable. Because when our leaders speak, their words carry weight.”

What Happened in this Case?

A common thread in many occurrences of violence against women, misogyny runs deep in this case: Adam Fox, one of the men charged federally, called for his co-conspirators to “Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch.”

He also referred to her as “this tyrant bitch,” claiming, “She fucking goddamn loves the power she has right now.” On Facebook, Fox referred to the group’s actions as those of a “patriot.”

“We’re gonna topple it all dude, It’s what great frickin’ conquerors man, we’re just gonna conquer every fuckin’ thing man,” Fox said.

Daniel Harris, also charged federally, discussed going to Whitmer’s residence to “cap her,” slang for shooting her.

But the plot went far beyond Facebook.

On Tuesday, new chilling details emerged by way of testimony from FBI Special Agent Richard Trask. Fox had a plan for what he would do if the kidnapping was successful, he told the FBI: He planned to take Whitmer out to the middle of Lake Michigan in a boat, take apart the engine, and leave her there.

Horrifically, Fox and others also admitted to taking photos and videos outside Whitmer’s cottage in broad daylight as part of the planning for a plot to kidnap her from there.

After completing surveillance around Whitmer’s vacation home, Kaleb Franks, also charged federally, said, “Kidnapping, arson, death. I don’t care.”

In addition to such surveillance episodes, the men discussed attacking police vehicles with Molotov cocktails, and even underwent combat training. At least two attended a 2nd Amendment rally at the Capitol.


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The FBI became aware of this threat through social media and investigated for months. In addition to kidnapping the governor, the group’s plans included storming the Capitol, preparing bombs, instigating civil war and trying Whitmer for treason.

Additionally, another Democrat—Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam—was mentioned as another kidnap target, because of Northam’s “lockdowns” aimed at stemming the coronavirus pandemic, said Trask.

President Trump Refuses to Condemn Violence

In her op-ed, Whitmer accused Trump of repeatedly acting complicit in regards to white supremacist and militia groups and referenced his directions to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the presidential debate.

The unrest seemed to reach a fever pitch in April: Large rallies broke out in Michigan at the Capitol, largely made up of men in military gear—including assault rifles—carrying Trump propaganda and white supremacist images (like swastikas and Confederate flags), yelling threats at legislators.

In response, on April 17, Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” The tweet seems to insinuate support for the unfettered hatred and intimidation of his alt-right supporters.

Similarly, rather than deescalate, the Michigan Republican speaker of the House said, “There’s nothing more American than people coming together to ensure their voices are being heard.” Republican state legislators joined in, scorning masks as oppressive, and calling Whitmer’s actions to stop the spread of the pandemic “tyrannical” and labeling her a dictator.

So when the kidnapping news broke last week, Whitmer drew the connections:

“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.”

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About

Audrey Andrews is an undergraduate studying archaeology and twentieth century United States political history at Columbia University. She plans to attend graduate school next year.