The Federal Bureau of Investigation has thwarted a plot by militia members to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, arresting thirteen people.
Six of the arrested people were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap, and the other seven members charged by the state were associated with the Wolverine Watchmen militia group that had also planned to attack the state capitol building and incite violence.
According to federal and state officials, their scheme also included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects "believe are violating the US Constitution."
At one point, the alleged plotters sought to recruit at least 200 members to storm the state capitol in Lansing and take hostages, but later abandoned the plan in favor of surveilling and kidnapping Whitmer at her vacation home, according to a criminal complaint.
"The individuals in (state) custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference.
Meanwhile, Democrats have pinned the blame for the incident on Republican President Donald Trump, citing his divisive rhetoric that has often found support among hate groups.
At a news conference, Whitmer accused Trump of encouraging extremist groups like the “sick and depraved men” that targeted her, pointing to his failure to condemn white supremacists at the recent US presidential debate against Joe Biden as an example.
"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. '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," she said.
“When our leaders meet with, encourage and fraternize with domestic terrorists they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit,” Whitmer said.
In response, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Whitmer is "sowing division."
"President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate," McEnany said in a statement to CNN. "Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations. America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot."
In recent months, internal US security memos have warned that violent domestic extremists could pose a threat to election-related targets.
Back in September, FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency was carrying out investigations into domestic extremists, including white supremacists and anti-fascist groups.