FBI: Michigan militia also targeted Virginia governor

Washington (AFP) –

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An FBI agent testified Tuesday that the heavily armed right-wing militia that plotted to kidnap Michigan's governor also discussed similar action against Virginia's governor.

In a bond hearing for five of the 13 men charged last week, agent Richard Trask told the federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that the men, angry about Covid-19 lockdown measures, among other issues, talked about "taking a sitting governor," specifically mentioning Michigan and Virginia, US media reported.

Trask said that the group ultimately decided to focus on kidnapping Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and, along with others, to attack police and possibly start a "civil war."

After infiltrating two separate groups with similar aims, FBI agents and Michigan police moved in to foil the plot last week as the 13 men sought to pool their efforts, arms and gear.

The plot underscored FBI warnings that white supremacists and anti-government militia have become the country's number one domestic terror threat.

Trask said the Michigan men had met online with people of similar leanings from several other states, discussing taking action against government officials.

Whitmer and Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam are both Democrats who have come under repeated political fire from President Donald Trump for their pandemic control efforts and other policies.

Trask said the kidnap plan for Whitmer included possibly putting her on mock trial, taking her to another state or stranding her on a boat in the middle of huge Lake Michigan.

In Virginia Northam fingered Trump for instigating such sentiments.

He noted that after he and Whitmer decided in April to implement strict mask-wearing and social distancing policies to deal with coronavirus, Trump called for people to "Liberate Virginia" and "Liberate Michigan."

"These threats, this rhetoric, is not coming from another country, it's coming from Washington. And it needs to stop," Northam said in a press conference.

"Words have meaning to people... When language is used such as 'liberate Virginia,' people find meaning in those words and these things happen," he said.