[10/14/20] – Militia Members Charged in Alleged Plot to Kidnap Michigan Governor

On Thursday, October 8th, federal and state officials reported that they had thwarted a domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Michigan Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer. According to the federal criminal complaint, the plot included plans to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home in the Western District of Michigan, try her for treason before the November 2020 election, and overthrow certain government and law enforcement components. The FBI became aware of the plot earlier this year through a social media group of individuals and then proceeded to investigate by planting confidential informants and undercover agents who recorded the conversations at the organizers meetings back in June. According to The Detroit News, the plot was orchestrated by six individuals who were not happy with Governor Whitmer’s COVID-19 response and who wanted to create a “self-sufficient” society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights. Some of the same individuals also had a similar plot to kidnap the Democrat Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam.

In a press conference, Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Attorney General, announced that thirteen men with ties to the militia movement were arrested in the alleged plot. Six of the men are facing federal charges of conspiracy to kidnap, while the other seven, who are associated with the Wolverine Watchmen, a militia group, are facing 19 state felony charges that range from gang membership and providing material support for terrorist acts to charges of carrying a firearm during the commission of a felony. Five of the federal defendants who are Michiganders have scheduled bond hearings on Tuesday, October 13th, while the sixth individual, who is from Delaware, is expected to be extradited following his detention hearing. 

On October 8th, Governor Whitmer addressed the alleged plot and thanked the law enforcement officers for thwarting the attack. Whitmer also criticized President Trump for refusing to condemn white supremacists at the first presidential debate: 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. “‘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.” 

Her remarks, however, were not well received by President Trump, who took Twitter to criticize the governor for her handling of COVID-19 and for not thanking him for the role that the federal government played in thwarting the kidnapping plot. White House press secretary released a statement saying, “America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.” According to The Detroit News, two of the militia members have been vocal supporters of President Trump on social media, while one plotter was seen in a viral anti-Trump video in front of an anarchist flag. 

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.

The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.



  • Writing: Explain how the kidnapping plot orchestrated by the militia men illustrates the politics of extremism.
  • Debate: President Trump’s remarks at the Presidential debate on September 29 was a call to action for domestic terrorists. (Agree or Disagree).
  • Poll: White supremacists and other far-right extremists are the most significant domestic terrorism threat in the United States. (Agree or Disagree).
  • Short Answer: Explain why six of the men are facing federal charges and seven of the men are facing state charges.

Cover Image: Portrait of Gretchen Whitmer via Wikimedia Creative Commons, CC 4.0 License

Which component of the criminal justice system would you like to see more coverage of in future Lecture Sparks?

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