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Michigan AG Says White Supremacist Groups Behind Plot To Kidnap Gov. Whitmer

Following the arrest of 13 people who plotted to kidnap the governor of Michigan and instigate a civil war, the state's attorney general warns American extremist ideology is on the rise — spurred in part, she says, by President Trump.

Early reports of the thwarted plan suggested members of two militia groups, including one called the Wolverine Watchmen, were behind the conspiracy to violently overthrow the state government, abduct Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before next month's election and put her on trial for treason.

But in an interview with NPR, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said multiple white supremacist and anti-government groups acted "in concert based on a shared extreme ideology."

Nessel on Thursday announced state charges against seven people related to the bizarre plan. They are all under arrest and accused of 19 state felonies, ranging from providing material support for terrorist acts to gang membership, among others.

A joint task force investigation lasting several months culminated in the arrest of Paul Bellar, 21, Sean Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Michael Null, 38, William Null, 38, Peter Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42.

The FBI, which says the men began planning as early as June, charged another six individuals, who, according to a 15-page criminal complaint, tracked down the governor's vacation home and began building bombs.

"The people that we charged are affiliated with this Wolverine Watchmen group," Nessel said, adding that it is a Michigan-based group. "But there are multiple white supremacy groups and militia groups that have been acting in accordance with one another."

Investigators found the men's mission is what white supremacist groups call "the Boogaloo," which Nessel described as an uprising or a second civil war.

"This effort to have a mass uprising nationally is something that we should be very concerned about because, again, it's not just a Michigan problem, this is an American problem."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan addresses the public after charges were announced Thursday over an alleged plot to kidnap her.
/ Michigan Office of the Governor via AP
Michigan Office of the Governor via AP
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan addresses the public after charges were announced Thursday over an alleged plot to kidnap her.

FBI Director Christopher Wray in February announced that the threat posed racially motivated violent extremists had reached a new "national threat priority."

Nessel said she concurs with that assessment and contends racist militia groups currently operating across the country are taking advantage of the unrest that's been caused by the COVID-19 epidemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"They're using it to recruit and to formulate plots," she charged.

Part of the recruitment effort took place during a protest at the state capitol over the summer where militia members stood on the steps holding guns and rifles.

"I think that those protests were used actually as recruiting stations to add more members and to find people that were angry with the governor, angry with the government, and frankly, I think encouraged by the words of our president," Nessel said.

Individuals arrested in connection with the plot to kidnap the governor also schemed to overtake the state capitol and potentially kill a number of public officials there, and threatened to execute members of law enforcement, she said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.