Michigan Gov. Kidnap Plot Was a Test Run for Trump’s Terrorists

Is there really any doubt anymore Donald Trump is fanning the flames of right-wing domestic terror?

While it may be true Trump finally capitulated to pressure to condemn white supremacist groups in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity two days after last week’s presidential debate during which he instructed “The Proud Boys” to “stand back and stand by,” right-wing so-called “militia” and white supremacy groups all over understand Trump isn’t fooling anyone, least of all those he half-heartedly condemned.

Those still holding out for more evidence, though, should look no further than Trump’s response to the domestic terrorists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and put her on trial for treason.

In what should have been another easy opportunity to distance himself from those committed to carrying out partisan intolerance and hate in his name, Trump blew it–again–and instead admonished Gov. Whitmer.

The FBI has charged 13 right-wing domestic terrorists for their role in the plot to abduct Whitmer–six who masterminded the plot they intended to enact before the presidential election, and seven with ties to the so-called “militia” group “Wolverine Watchmen,” who face state terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons charges for planning to storm the state Capitol in Lansing and incite civil war.

Announcing the charges on Thursday, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge stated:

“The FBI and Michigan State Police arrested six individuals charged in a federal complaint with conspiring to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. According to the complaint unsealed this morning, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta conspired to kidnap the governor from her vacation home in the Western District of Michigan before the November election.”

In April, taking their cue from the “operation gridlock” protest at the Michigan state Capitol, rally organizers intended to force governors to lift orders designed to stop the coronavirus spread, despite public health officials’ recommendations.

As The Daily Beast reported:

“A protest movement is taking hold targeting states that have extended social-distancing rules, closed schools, and restricted access to large religious gatherings. And it’s being fed by loyalists and political allies of President Donald Trump.”

Trump, of course, encouraged the militia behavior, tweeting:



Gov. Whitmer said at Thursday’s press conference, at which she thanked law enforcement and expressed her hopes the criminal charges would “lead to convictions, bringing these sick and depraved men to justice”:

“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. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”

Trump’s Democratic rival for the presidency, Joe Biden, added:

“You saw what the head of the FBI said a couple of days ago. He said the greatest terrorist threat in America is from white supremacists. Why can’t the president just say, ‘stop, stop, stop, stop, and we will pursue you if you don’t’?”

Lest we forget–

Donald Trump demanded four female House members of color to “go back” to the “crime infested places” from which they came.

He called South American countries “shitholes.”

He accused three to five million “illegals” of voter fraud.

He floated ending birthright citizenship via executive order.

He praised pro-Confederate protesters in Charlottesville, Va. as well as those intending to force governors to lift orders designed to stop the coronavirus spread while calling BLM protesters “thugs.”

He calls COVID-19 (which he has contracted) a “Chinese virus.”

He still thinks he’s building a wall to prevent Mexican and South American immigrant entry.

(The Ninth Circuit Court just upheld a 2019 ruling blocking it.)

Trump and surrogates have regularly been exposed for their more obvious dog whistles.

Last month, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was ordered to identify and cut funding for “critical race theory,” or federal worker diversity trainings intended to expose and prevent bigotry and systemic bias within government institutions and agencies.

Also last month, Trump delivered a speech at the National Archives at which he announced the formation of the “1776 Commission” intended to discredit The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” dedicated to chronicling the country’s history beginning the year Europeans shipped the first enslaved Africans to American shores.

Trump suggested Barack Obama “founded” Isis.

He told “second amendment people” they might be able to take care of Hillary Clinton.

Trump extolled Montana Republican congressman Greg Gianforte for body-slamming Guardian political reporter Ben Jacobs in May 2017 for asking a question Gianforte didn’t appreciate.

Trump has called the media “scum,” “dishonest,” “not good people,” “sleazy,” “fake news,” and “among the worst human beings” he has ever met.

Over the past several years, Trump’s stochastic terrorism has successfully incited ardent supporters to fill in the blanks.

This is his strategy to divide us.

No matter how many times Trump may “denounce” “Proud Boys” and the “boogaloos” when his back is to the wall, his policies and dog-whistles continue.

Unless those change, the overwhelming right-wing militia attacks will not only continue, but increase.

Why else would Trump have called for supporters to “go in” and “watch very carefully” while America votes?

Steven Gardiner, who tracks militias at the progressive think tank Political Research Associates, said:

“The militias will absolutely seize on [Trump’s comments]. The possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places is very troubling. The relationship between the militias and the current administration is call and response–it’s not always clear who’s leading the chant. Sometimes it’s coming from the militias, sometimes it’s coming from the president.”

Director of anti-bigotry organization the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, Devin Burghart, explained:

“A number of groups have begun talking about mobilizations on election day and beyond. We’re hearing initial chatter about preparations for 3 November and we’re paying close attention. We anticipate that after Trump’s call to arms at last week’s debate we’ll see a lot more activity from here.”

In 2020, we should not have armed domestic terrorists overtly threatening politicians.

But in 2020 we shouldn’t have a president urging them to do it.

Yet we do.

Electing Joe Biden president isn’t going to make all our problems vanish, but it will send fascistic traitors back under the rocks from whence they came.

It isn’t going to be easy; Trump has ripped open wounds that took generations to heal, or at least began to.

Handing Trump four more years could prove catastrophic for America.

Think for a moment of all the un-American acts he has committed:

He’s received campaign aid from foreign adversaries, violated campaign finance laws, uses the office of the president to financially enrich himself, enlists the Attorney General as his own personal legal henchman, attempted to blackmail another country to assist in maligning his Democratic rival, throws immigrants (many of them children) in concentration camps, separates families at the Southern border, obstructed Congress, threated to lock up his political opponents.

The list continues.

And it will continue to continue so long as he remains in power.

Four more years?

Who knows what the United States of America will be like then should this madman keep the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It could be the end of the republic, the American experiment’s denouement.

That may have been hyperbole four or even two years ago.

It isn’t anymore.

These guys who planned to kidnap Gov. Whitmer were amateurs compared to whom might be coming next–with Trump’s full faith and support.

They are Trump’s “brown shirts.”

Image credit:  crooksandliars.com

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.