Suspects behind thwarted kidnapping plot are 'domestic terrorists,' Michigan governor says

"That's the kind of thing you expect to hear from a group like ISIS," she said.

October 13, 2020, 12:15 PM

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged for the conspirators behind the foiled kidnapping plot that allegedly targeted her to be called "domestic terrorists," likening the months-long plan to ISIS.

"It wasn't simply to kidnap. It was to put me on a trial of some sort and possibly execute me," she said on ABC's "The View" on Tuesday. "That's the kind of thing you expect to hear from a group like ISIS. That's why when people refer to them as militias, we have to call them out as what they are -- domestic terrorists."

The first-term governor pivoted to casting a rejection of violent extremist groups as a reflection of the choice on November's ballot, without ever mentioning President Donald Trump by name.

"There are those who use their platforms to stoke and incite and give comfort to these groups. That's not acceptable," she said. "That's one of the things that's at stake in this election in three weeks. We have a choice between someone who has done that or someone who is a deeply human, kind person who reached out, a deeply decent person like Joe Biden."

During a press conference last week, a visibly angry Whitmer lashed out at Trump for "stoking" hate and called the suspects "sick and depraved men."

Whitmer said she was "not surprised" by Trump later continuing to criticize her over Twitter in the hours after the FBI announced the charges against the men.

"This is a moment where leaders can either call out evil intent and plot like one to -- unprecedented -- to take out a sitting governor. Shouldn't matter what side of the aisle that governor sits on," she said. "It was an opportunity to say 'how are you? How is your family? We care about you. We may not agree, but we care about you.' That's the decent thing to do. That's not what happened. It's a stark reminder of the character in our nation."

Further underscoring the stakes of the fast-approaching election, she contended that it will "impact everything."

"From health care in Michigan," she said, "it's going to impact our autonomy over our bodies, the LGBTQ community. It will have ramifications for generations of Americans. That's why we have to vote."

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against six men in Michigan allegedly involved in a plot to kidnap the Democratic governor and violently overthrow the state's government before November's election.

On Tuesday, prosecutors said the suspects discussed also kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over his COVID-19 restrictions.

Michigan's state capitol has been at the center of a number of protests by right-wing activists, some armed, in the weeks and months after Whitmer enforced a strict lockdown in the spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although Michigan was one of the hardest-hit states in the early months of the outbreak, her far-reaching response drew criticism by state Republicans and protesters for being too restrictive. But Whitmer has held firm in her handling of the pandemic, saying on Tuesday that she wouldn't have acted differently.

"Studies have shown the actions we took saved thousands of Michigan lives. I sleep at night knowing what we did saved people in this state," she said.

In the early months of the virus, her administration served as a counterpoint to the White House's fumbled response, landing Whitmer in Trump's crosshairs and labeling her "that woman from Michigan."

The FBI said it first learned of the suspects' plot early this year and began embedding confidential sources and undercover agents to monitor their activities.

Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta started planning to take Whitmer and others hostage at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, according to the criminal complaint, and planned to blow up a bridge and allegedly intended to hold Whitmer for a trial and then execute her. The men went to the governor's vacation home on two separate occasions in August and September to conduct surveillance, the complaint said.

Investigators said several of the suspects were among those protesting the state's lockdown.

ABC News' Morgan Winsor, Luke Barr and Alex Mallin contributed to this report.