Earlier today, The Detroit News broke the shocking story that federal agents stopped twelve far-right terrorists who were planning what has been described as a “major operation” to overthrow the government and kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic Governor of Michigan.
According to the court filings, the men involved in the plot carried out surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home at least twice and discussed how they would abscond with her to a “secure” Wisconsin location where they would carry out some kind of sham trial for imagined “treason” on her part.
An FBI affidavit revealed that some of the plotters discussed killing “tyrants” and the “taking” of a governor. Hoping to expand into something more akin to all-out insurrection, the men planned to recruit more conspirators by reaching out to likeminded individuals.
Whitmer has become a lightning rod for conservative criticisms due to the strong measures she has implemented to halt the spread of COVID-19. Some Republicans have taken to regularly comparing her to Hitler over her previously issued stay-at-home order, in no small part because many right-wingers have become convinced that the coronavirus is a hoax or at the very least overblown. This kidnapping plot is the natural terminus for such paranoia.
Immediately after the news broke, commentators brought up a previous tweet from President Trump in which he urged his followers to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” The intentionally vague nature of the tweet means it could easily have been interpreted by fringe right-wing groups as a call to violence.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
Whitmer responded powerfully to the kidnapping story by taking Trump to task for “stoking distrust, fomenting anger, and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” The governor went on to criticize Trump’s refusal to forcefully denounce white supremacists during his debate with Joe Biden as well as his order to the cryptofascist Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by.”
Whitmer: "Our head of state has spent the past 7 months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger, & giving comfort to those who spread fear … just last week, POTUS stood before the people and refused to condemn white supremacists." pic.twitter.com/LKfUht5rD4
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 8, 2020
Astonishingly, the White House does not see the kidnapping plot as a reason to tone down Trump’s rhetoric or come out in strong opposition to right-wing terror. Instead, the Trump administration is using this story as an excuse to attack Governor Whitmer personally.
“President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate. 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,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
As if McEnany’s gross victim-blaming wasn’t enough, Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller—the same man who was accused of secretly slipping an abortion pill to his stripper mistress—appeared on Fox News and told Whitmer to “go look in the mirror” if she wanted to discuss “hatred” before whinging about the criticisms she’s leveled against our disastrous, bigoted president. It was exactly the kind of disgraceful media performance one would expect from someone as morally bankrupt as Miller.
Clearly, the Trump administration could not care less about violent plots against Democratic politicians. If these monsters aren’t removed from power and stripped of the state legitimacy they’ve been abusing to incite dangerous groups there’s no telling what kind of attack conservatives will plan next.
Trump campaign official Jason Miller is on Fox News attacking Gretchen Whitmer, the victim of a kidnapping plot: "If we want to talk about hatred, then Gov. Whitmer, go look in the mirror — the fact that she wakes up everyday with such hatred in her heart for President Trump." pic.twitter.com/sMXv7mgBfa
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 8, 2020
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.