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.
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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.”