Yesterday, it was revealed that thirteen far-right terrorists were thwarted by federal agents while planning to kidnap the Democratic Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer. The conspirators intended to storm the Capitol and escape with the governor to a location in Wisconsin where they planned to conduct a trial over what they considered “treason” on her part.
Whitmer has been a favorite target of right-wing hatred ever since she ordered a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Conservative animosity towards her was then exacerbated by her public feud with Donald Trump. Because she took the proper precautions to save lives and refused to bow down to a bully, heavily armed men have convinced themselves that she is some kind of serious threat to the country.
When the kidnapping story broke yesterday, Whitmer rightly identified the rhetoric of Donald Trump as part of the larger problem, with his refusal to forcefully condemn white supremacy only serving to embolden men like those who plotted against her. Many other commentators pointed out that Trump tacitly encouraged such illegal behavior when he previously tweeted out for his followers to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” as coronavirus measures were going into effect in the state.
The White House responded to the Whitmer story by personally attacking the governor and hypocritically accusing her of spreading hate. This administration obviously has no intention of tempering its rhetoric to discourage any future similar plots and by choosing to go after Whitmer and not the terrorists they risk actively encouraging copycats.
The administration’s disgusting response looks even worse when one realizes that Trump is not the only one responsible. On CNN last night, Chris Cuomo pointed out that Attorney General William Barr also has a lot to answer for in this disturbing saga. He argued that Trump doesn’t deserve credit for the FBI foiling the Whitmer kidnapping since he regularly lambasts the agency as part of the “Deep State,” and that Barr deserves none as well.
“He’s damned by his own words,” said Cuomo of the AG. He then played a clip of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) grilling Barr in July after right-wing protestors swarmed the Michigan capitol building. Jayapal asked if Barr was aware that the protestors called for Whitmer to be “lynched, shot, and beheaded.” He claimed that he was not aware, a baffling ignorance for the Attorney General of the United States to allegedly have on such a serious criminal issue.
“These people were investigating it at the same time,” Cuomo said of the clip. “A sitting governor, over a dozen bad guys, months of planning, murderous intent, derivative of the main domestic terror threat we face. And he’s clueless? How? How is that okay?”
The explanation for Barr’s apathy is a simple one: this administration simply does not care about right-wing or white supremacist terror. It matters less whether or not he knew about the dangers of these armed conservative paranoics, what matters is that he chose not to care about them. On some very real level, Trump sees these people as supporters and doesn’t want to take any action or say anything that might alienate them. At this point, there can be no denying that his presidency is a threat to all of us.
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