Michigan GOP leader questions why Legislature wasn’t warned of terror plot

Lee Chatfield

Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, sent a letter Saturday to the governor lambasting her and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist for their criticism of Republicans in the wake of an alleged attempted terror plot against her. (Bridge file photo)

Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Saturday morning questioning why the Legislature wasn’t alerted to a plot to storm the Capitol and kidnap hostages, including the governor. 

“The plot by these terrorists was against us, too,” Chatfield wrote. “You knew, and we weren’t even given a warning. We had people working in the building every day doing essential work, and their lives matter, too.” 

The letter comes two days after the FBI, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan’s U.S. Attorneys announced federal charges against six men who allegedly plotted for months to kidnap Whitmer from her northern Michigan cottage and discussed storming the state Capitol building in Lansing and taking hostages. 

Nessel separately announced her office filing charges against seven members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia, who she said also intended to participate in kidnappings at the Capitol and Whitmer’s cottage in the hopes of instigating a “civil war,” with other crimes under the state’s anti-terrorism law. 

In the letter, Chatfield lambasted statements by Whitmer and Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist against President Trump and state Republicans, respectively. After the charges were announced, Whitmer said that the president’s rhetoric fostered a hate-charged environment, making him “complicit” in the militia members’ plot, and Gilchrist told CNN that state Republican leaders, too, “legitimize” the groups and “support them with their rhetoric.”

Whitmer has been a fierce critic of the president’s actions and rhetoric since the pandemic began, and Trump has publicly criticized Whitmer’s statewide response, tweeting “Liberate Michigan!” in mid-April and saying she “has done a terrible job” the evening the charges were announced. 

“Blanket, partisan blame is wrong,” Chatfield wrote in the letter Saturday, adding that members of the state Legislature have also received threats since political wrangling over the pandemic began. “It simply further divides us and causes more political strife.”

Zack Pohl, spokesperson for the governor, told Bridge via email that Whitmer “won’t be distracted by the Speaker’s partisan attacks.”

“If the Speaker has concerns with this successful law enforcement operation, he should direct them to the FBI and President Trump’s Department of Justice, which was in command” of the criminal probe, Pohl said. “It’s time for Republicans, from the White House on down, to forcefully condemn violent domestic terrorists.”

Pohl also noted that Shirkey spoke at a protest against the governor’s policies shortly after the charges were announced. 

Shirkey, Chatfield and other Republican leaders denounced the plot in social media posts. At the protest later that day, Shirkey said that the domestic terrorist plot should not be conflated with those who disagree with the governor’s policies and “this is no time to be weak in our commitment to freedom.”

Whitmer told CNN she knew of the plot to kidnap her for weeks, but the investigation was led by state and federal law enforcement. Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for Chatfield, told Bridge via email that he spoke with the Michigan State Police Friday about his concerns that Republican leaders were not alerted earlier but could not get in touch with the governor. 

Federal officials began investigating some of the alleged would-be kidnappers earlier this year after finding their discussion on a social media group about violently overthrowing the government and attacking law enforcement. 

Some of the militia members charged Thursday met at a Second Amendment rally at the state Capitol building in June and attempted to recruit more members to the operation. 

The FBI alleges the conspirators met secretly in the basement of a Grand Rapids business, conducted combat training in Wisconsin, gathered in Ohio and attempted to build homemade explosive devices. They called Whitmer a “tyrant” and gradually shifted their plans from an attack on the Capitol building to a plan to abduct the governor, take her to a secret location in Wisconsin and try her for “treason.”

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A2 Mary
Sat, 10/10/2020 - 5:48pm

Chatfield is engaging in political theater and faux outrage. It would have been irresponsible for the governor to tell anyone. a) It was, after all, an undercover investigation. b) She was the one specifically mentioned as a target. Had the FBI/DOJ considered others at risk as well, they would/should have notified them. c) There were confidential sources and undercover agents involved, and their lives could have been placed risk if someone in the legislative body who was sympathetic to the cause of these nutjobs (and sadly, I'm sure there are) had tipped them off.

Sat, 10/10/2020 - 6:01pm

Chatfield should ask the FBI that question instead of the Governor. If he would have known, he would have tipped off his supporters before they were all arrested.

Sat, 10/10/2020 - 9:56pm


Sun, 10/11/2020 - 8:32am

I totally agree. Who in their right mind would inform someone like Chatfield about anything serious. He runs his mouth about all that is wrong with the Gov, why would the FBI trust him with something so serious.

Now that we are at the mercy of Republicans like Chatfield I expect to see more of these activities in the state since their big leader seems to condone such groups.

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 10:22am

Yep. He is a good example of why term limits have their benefits.

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 11:07am

Even if Chatfiield himself didn't tip them off, one of his colleagues would have. The legislature makes a colander look leak-proof.

Another M
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 11:37am

I agree and suspect the same.

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 6:17pm

M, you are absolutely right. The FBI would have briefed Chatfield and Shirkey - only, the FBI couldn't trust them to keep their mouths shut. C&S would have let their right-wing friends and associates know about the investigation, and, social link by link, it would have gotten downstream to the terrorists.

McCain GOP
Tue, 10/13/2020 - 5:12pm

Chatfield and Shirkey definitely act like enablers to these lunatics.

Nancy W
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 7:43pm

That was exactly my first thought considering how the GOP goes out of their way to justify or ignore or downplay the criminal behavior of their allies.

Burton Knows
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 9:05pm

Yeah Chatfield and his Senate counterpart would've spread the news in public. They're just mad because everyone knows they would've told the public.

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 1:18pm

Yeah, they're his supporters or is Chatfield too progressive? LOL
Guess Trump's FBI didn't trust Chatfield. All the talk about destroying government is coming home to roost. The crazies are running around as vigilantes that Trump praises with "stand back and stand by". Normal people saw the command for what it was. So much for the "law and order" president.

Sat, 10/10/2020 - 6:46pm

I believe the republican legislators were not informed because they joined a demonstration by the terrorists and were photographed with them. That’s called a potential leak

Marie Kopin
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 12:17am

If an older law is nullified, it seems to me that things done under that law by state officials would stay if they were made before the law was nullified. I can understand that no new things relating to that law could be done, but I do not understand how past things under the law would be nullified.
Thanks for your reply and clarifications which I am anticipating.

Bob Dunn
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 9:45am

Why would one give information to a group that supports the militia groups and their behavior?

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 10:22am

Lee, aren’t you the same guy who tried to bring a loaded gun onto a plane explaining that, as a responsible gun owner, it had slipped your mind that you were wandering around with a loaded gun? Maybe the feds were worried that it would slip your mind that any information they shared with you had to be held in confidence.

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 10:37am

Wait a minute. Chatfield and Shirkey have been playing footsie all along with these militia groups and the public is supposed to ignore that just because these two politicians make a big show out of a few statements decrying violence?
Give me a break.

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 10:57am

GOP controlled legislature...." it took more than a half century to reach the point where faced with a choice between democracy and power, the party chose the latter. Its leaders don’t see a dilemma—democratic principles turn out to be disposable tools, sometimes useful, sometimes inconvenient. The higher cause is conservatism, but the highest is power." G. Packer, Atlantic

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 12:09pm

I believe that it was Mr. Chatfield and his group that pushed forward the "open carry" law which first turned our peaceful and beautiful state into a threatening and unsafe community. He held a meeting with us about the impending plan for "open carry" and the women in attendance cried. A couple of those women were school teachers and had already had some experiences with student attacks with guns. He was not moved. He is the one that set the scene for all of these awful gun incidents to happen in our State. His capitol building is a nightmare now. He made it this way. He shouldn't be warned of anything. We already tried to do that and he had no ears. Now he can live in fear just like all of the rest of us.

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 3:35pm

"Now he can live in fear just like all of the rest of us"


Sun, 10/11/2020 - 1:26pm

Let's count the reason's. In what world could trust be bestowed on any GOP member who refuses to pass legislature to ban guns in the State House, who promotes a POTUS who lies, deceives and is responsible for an out of control pandemic, has destroyed the economy, call a sitting Governor "that women", record unemployment. A GOP-controlled Senate refusing to help millions of suffering Americans. The list is so long is defies reason.

butch krumenaker
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 3:33pm

Now the GOP (Government of Puten) wants answers.........just like the citizens of Michigan who wants to know where the gop has been! They "run" the State, but just like the National GOP, no plans for the future, no idea on how to get anything done, and no answers on what they are doing! Mr. Chatfield must understand that an investigating party such as the FBI is not going to inform all parties that "may" be involved. And "leaks" may come from anybody involved, but I guess that is not taught a "defunct bible colleges" these days. Again, the gop thinks they are entitled to knowledge just because they are the gop. And like the Federal level, the State gop has produced the same amount of "work"............nothing !~

Susan Ellicott
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 6:40pm

Considering this guy's treatment of the Governor, he was probably in favor of anything that brings her down.

George Hagenauer
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 7:29pm

If I was a legislator worried about this - I would be beefing up security at the Capitol and banning guns in the building. In many state Capitols there are metal detectors you pass through when entering. A few years ago there was a shooting in the US Capitol - not taking precautions at this time just jeopardizes the lives of legislators. It is more important to prepare for the next attack.

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 2:46pm

I agree. His actions are not supporting his statements. Their (Shirkey/Chatfield) oversized EGOs are hurt. They will do nothing to protect the people within our Capital Building.

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 10:50am

The debate on whether to ban guns at the capitol should've ended when two of the men who were arrested for plotting to kidnap and kill an elected official were also pictured at the April unlock rally, heavily armed and on a balcony overlooking the Senate floor. Regardless of political affiliation, no elected official should feel threatened or like their life is at risk, especially while doing the duties they were elected to perform.

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 5:17pm

Those definitely sound like "Law and Order" measures. Guess that whole mantra is just more GOP BS.

Vince Caruso
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 8:00pm

Maybe they don't trust you and your followers!?
Maybe for good reason!?

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 6:13am

Whitmer didn't inform you because she's a dictator who disregards the rule of law, the state Supreme Court, and the Legislature. She'll punish anyone who DARES defy her.

It wouldn't surprise me to find out she helped finance this plan. I think it's very suspicious that this all happened so close to an election. She sure wasted no time in trying to link Trump to this, all while she supports the BLM riots.

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 3:41pm

What I find surprising is how many people still buy stories like this. Playbooks like this have been manipulating the masses for centuries.

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 11:05am

Or maybe she didn't inform because the case was handled by the FBI on a "need to know" basis.

It happened "so close to an election" because their plan was literally to kidnap and kill Whitmer BEFORE the election. Read the affidavit and take the tinfoil hat off. The only part of this story that is "suspicious" is Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield speaking at an anti-Whitmer rally at the Capitol the same day the FBI released their findings and arrests.

Enjoy Prison!
Tue, 10/13/2020 - 5:18pm

Are you out on bail?

G Scott
Mon, 10/12/2020 - 6:52am

Ohhhh, the hypocrisy. Sounds as if he may be concerned about his own personal safety. Maybe he should start by focusing upon improving safety in his own workplace. Banning weapons in the state capital might be a good starting point. The republican leadership in this state continues to fail us. I worry about the partys' future!

Erwin Haas
Mon, 10/12/2020 - 9:36am

It's well to remember that the FBI has batted 0/0 in preventing terrorist attacks.
In 6 months or so we'll read the final reports of this bruhaha showing that the FBI funded and encouraged a bunch of mentally slow hotheads into bragging about their fantasies.
And the charges will be dismissed because of FBI entrapment.
All in small print, of course. Don't want to embarrass the government, y'know.

Militia LOSERS
Tue, 10/13/2020 - 5:23pm

Were all the materials the FBI found to make bombs and practice using fantasy????? It seems the words match the actions, but hey. Maybe you're right. NOT!

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 3:43pm

BAN guns over here, BAN guns over there, BAN guns at this building, BAN BAN BAN. Sure does make it easy for real criminals to know where to do evil things.

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 3:52pm

You reap what you sow!

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 11:03am

“Blanket, partisan blame is wrong,” Chatfield wrote in the letter Saturday




Well it's nice to see Chatfield showing some independence and finally condemning President Trump's behavior.