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Trump calls Gretchen Whitmer ungrateful for being saved from militia kidnap plot

Six men allegedly conspired to abduct governor and 'try’ her for treason over lockdown orders

Andrew Naughtie
Friday 09 October 2020 10:22 BST
Trump complains Michigan governor ungrateful after being saved.mp4

Donald Trump has claimed in a Fox News interview that Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer is ungrateful for being saved from a kidnap plot — even as her state’s attorney general warned there are still “dangerous” people making similar plans.

According to the FBI, 13 men have been arrested on various charges over a number of violent plans they were allegedly making; six stand accused of plotting to kidnap Ms Whitmer and try her for “treason” over her tough lockdown measures imposed to combat the coronavirus.

The bureau claims that they discussed in detail how to abduct the governor, reaching out to local militia groups and at one point focusing on her personal vacation home and summer residence.

Mr Trump, however, responded to the news by taking a dig at Ms Whitmer during an on-air phone interview with host and longtime ally Sean Hannity on Thursday night.

As he has on previous occasions, he reiterated offhandedly that he did condemn right-wing extremists, but then flipped the discussion back to discussing left-wing extremist groups like “Antifa” (which is not in fact a coherent, organised group) and associating them with Democrat Joe Biden.

Then, just hours after the plot against Ms Whitmer came to light, Mr Trump pivoted to attacking the governor himself.

“And you know I see Whitmer today, she was complaining, but it was our Justice Department that arrested the people that she was complaining about, it was my Justice Department that arrested them," he said.

“But instead she goes and does her little political act, and she keeps her state closed — although we just won the big case, as you know, to open up Michigan. Because what she’s doing is a horrible thing to the people. The churches are closed, the schools are closed, and the whole state is closed, and people are being hurt very badly by it in the form of drinking and suicides and depression. It’s a very sad thing.”

Speaking on MSNBC about the implications of the plot, Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel told host Katy Tur that she was “worried about additional threats”.

“This may very well be the tip of the iceberg. I don’t feel as if our work or the work of the federal authorities is complete, and I think there are still dangerous individuals that are out there and a point of great concern.

“And I think that’s why it is so important that our elected leaders tone down the rhetoric and make it clear once and for all, and to be unequivocal about the fact that they do not condone and that they actually condemn these these individuals and this type of conduct and these types of organisations.”

The plot comes after a year in which Ms Whitmer and Mr Trump clashed publicly over her state’s tough coronavirus lockdown measures and requests for help obtaining protective equipment, with the president famously disdaining her as “that woman from Michigan”.

Mr Trump complained loudly in the spring about Ms Whitmer’s tough approach to locking down her state, at one point tweeting the words “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

Less than a fortnight after that tweet, a large crowd of anti-lockdown protesters — some heavily armed — entered the Michigan state capitol in Lansing to protest against government “tyranny”. There are now reports that at least two of the men arrested in the FBI investigation attended one such protest.

The governor earlier this year flagged the “explosion” of threats against her; when this latest plot came to light, she laid into Mr Trump for “giving comfort to those that spread fear and hatred and division”, including at the first presidential debate with Joe Biden.

“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,” she said.

"Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, a call to action."

In her MSNBC interview, however, Ms Nessel made clear that she did not view the investigation as a matter of politics — though she called the president an exception.

“I think it’s important for people to know this is not political. I just was on a stage with Trump appointees who worked hand-in-hand with my office — I’m a Democrat. This has nothing to do with our politics, this has nothing to do with our political persuasion.

“When you talk about law and order, what you saw on that stage, what you see us doing today in terms of these charges, that is what is law and order, not what the president has been talking about.”

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