The alleged kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as told in photos

Six men were arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap the Democratic governor.

October 09, 2020, 5:46 PM

Six men were arrested this week for an alleged plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and violently overthrow the state's government.

Tensions between Whitmer, the state's second female governor, and right-wing activists have been playing out publicly, with large protests through the spring and summer as the governor instituted restrictions to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Through it all, President Donald Trump has been involved in heightening those tensions with his own public statements, which Whitmer rebuked after the arrests were announced.

Here is how it played out since coronavirus was declared a pandemic in mid-March.

March 23: Whitmer announces COVID restrictions

PHOTO: In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tells Michigan residents to stay at home, in her most sweeping order of the coronavirus crisis, March 23, 2020, in Lansing, Mich.
In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tells Michigan residents to stay at home, in her most sweeping order of the coronavirus crisis, March 23, 2020, in Lansing, Mich.
Michigan Governor via AP, FILE

On March 23, Whitmer announced a stay-at-home order for the state through at least April 13. That included orders for all businesses and operations not necessary to sustain or protect life to temporarily suspend in-person operations.

Michigan COVID-19 cases
Michigan COVID-19 cases
ABC News

"This is an unprecedented crisis that requires all of us working together to protect our families and our communities. The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home," she said in a public announcement. "I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary. If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives."

Late March and early April: Trump criticizes Whitmer

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks with members of the coronavirus task force at the White House on March 27, 2020, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks with members of the coronavirus task force at the White House on March 27, 2020, in Washington.
The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

At a White House daily briefing on coronavirus on March 27, the president said Whitmer "has no idea what's going on," referring to her as "the young woman governor," and saying she wasn't "stepping up."

He continued to criticize and dismiss her decisions, infamously referring to her as "that woman from Michigan" -- a phrase she wore on a shirt while making an appearance on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" on April 1.

"I don't think anyone has the energy to deal with politics right now," she said on the show. "All of our energy, all of our focus has to be on meeting the needs of our people. People are dying."

Early and mid-April: Protests break out in Michigan

PHOTO: People protest against the coronavirus quarantine orders at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., April 15, 2020.
People protest against the coronavirus quarantine orders at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., April 15, 2020.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images
PHOTO: People protest against excessive quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on April 15, 2020.
People protest against excessive quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on April 15, 2020.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Trump wasn't the only person publicly condemning Whitmer's efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus in Michigan. In mid-April, critics planned a drive-by demonstration, dubbing it "Operation Gridlock." While the plan was only for in-car demonstrations, protesters did appear in public.

Many of the protesters, including some wearing red "Make America Great Again" hats and T-shirts supporting Trump, also displayed signs reading "Impeach Whitmer" and "My Freedom is Essential."

Whitmer's coronavirus restrictions were among the strictest in the nation, including, in addition to the business orders, limiting the number of customers in essential stores to four for every 1,000 square feet, suggesting people limit the number of household members who are running errands, and banning all public and private gatherings outside homes.

On April 17, Trump tweeted, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," apparently referring to Whitmer's restrictions and business closures.

April 30: Protesters, some armed, push into Michigan State Capitol building

PHOTO: Armed protesters provide security as demonstrators take part in an "American Patriot Rally," organized on April 30, 2020, by Michigan United for Liberty on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, demanding the reopening of businesses.
Armed protesters provide security as demonstrators take part in an "American Patriot Rally," organized on April 30, 2020, by Michigan United for Liberty on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, demanding the reopening of businesses.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images
PHOTO: Protesters try to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber in Lansing, Mich., April 30, 2020.
Protesters try to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber after the American Patriot Rally organized by Michigan United for Liberty protest for the reopening of businesses on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., April 30, 2020.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Protests continued around the state capitol as Whitmer continued to stand behind her restrictions. On April 30, protesters, some of whom were armed, stormed into the state capitol building demanding the state legislature not extend her stay-at-home order. State legislators were meeting to discuss extending Michigan's state of emergency, which was issued on March 10 and was slated to end April 30.

It is legal in Michigan to carry a firearm in public "as long as the person is carrying the firearm with lawful intent and the firearm is not concealed," according to the state police.

As of that morning, Michigan had more than 40,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,600 deaths, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

PHOTO: A militia group stands in front of the Governor's office after protesters occupied the state capitol building in Lansing, Mich., April 30, 2020.
A militia group stands in front of the Governor's office after protesters occupied the state capitol building in Lansing, Mich., April 30, 2020.
Seth Herald/Reuters
PHOTO: Members of a militia group stand near the doors to the chamber in the capitol building in Lansing, Mich., April 30, 2020.
Members of a militia group, including men identified by Reuters as Michael John Null and Willam Grant Null, (R), who were charged October 8, 2020 for their involvement in a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor and incite violence, stand near the doors to the chamber in the capitol building in Lansing, Mich., April 30, 2020.
Seth Herald/Reuters, FILE

Among the armed protesters that day were at least several of the men who were arrested in October for the alleged kidnapping plot. This included Pete Musico, according to Reuters, and Michael John Null and William Grant Null, according to WXYZ.

Protests and criticism of Whitmer continued into the summer, which the governor said on ABC's "The View" in mid-May did "undermine the effort" to stem the spread of coronavirus.

PHOTO: A woman carries a sign critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a rally in Lansing, Mich., organized by Michigan United for Liberty to protest the coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home order, May 14, 2020.
A woman carries a sign critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a rally in Lansing, Mich., organized by Michigan United for Liberty to protest the coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home order, May 14, 2020.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Oct. 8: Arrests and alleged kidnapping plot announced

A total of 13 men were charged related to an alleged plan to kidnap Whitmer before the November election and violently overthrow the state government.

"Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," an FBI criminal complaint released Friday said. The FBI claimed these discussions took place over the summer, including, in late August, conducting surveillance on Whitmer's vacation home.

PHOTO: Adam Fox, Ty Garbin and Daniel Harris; at bottom are Kaleb Franks, Brandon Castera and Barry Croft.
A criminal complaint filed on Oct. 6, 2020, named six men who are accused of planning to take Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and others hostage at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing. Pictured at top are Adam Fox, Ty Garbin and Daniel Harris; at bottom are Kaleb Franks, Brandon Castera and Barry Croft.
Kent County Sheriff/Delaware Dept. of Justice

According to the FBI criminal complaint, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta planned to take Whitmer and others hostage at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan.

In addition to those six, seven men who were part of a "militia group" were charged by the Michigan attorney general for allegedly calling on group members to identify home addresses of law enforcement officers, making threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse, and planning and training for an attack on the state capitol building and to kidnap government officials, including Whitmer.

PHOTO: Pictured in the top row are Joseph Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar; on the bottom row are Michael Null, William Null, Eric Molitor and Shawn Fix.
The Michigan attorney general charged seven men associated with a militia for making threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse, planning and training for an attack on the state capitol building and to kidnap government officials. Pictured in the top row are Joseph Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar; on the bottom row are Michael Null, William Null, Eric Molitor and Shawn Fix.
Antrim County Sheriff/Richland County PIO/Jackson County Sheriff

At a Thursday afternoon news conference to address the arrests, Whitmer lashed out at Trump for "stoking" hate and called the suspects "sick and depraved men."

"This should be a moment for national unity where we all pull together as Americans to meet this challenge head on with the same might and muscle that put a man on the moon," Whitmer said. "Instead our head of state has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust and fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread hatred and division."

PHOTO: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a news conference after thirteen people were arrested for alleged plots to take Whitmer hostage and attack the state capitol building, in Lansing, Mich., Oct. 8, 2020.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a news conference after thirteen people were arrested for alleged plots to take Whitmer hostage and attack the state capitol building, in Lansing, Mich., Oct. 8, 2020.
Michigan Governor's Office via Reuters

Trump also reacted himself hours later, tweeting Thursday night that Whitmer has "done a terrible job" and, regarding the foiled kidnapping plot, "rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist."

"Governor Whitmer -- open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!" he wrote.

During an Oct. 9 appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America," Whitmer said threats against her were "ongoing."

"Even the president last night in his tweet storm won't stop attacking me, and I think that it's creating a very dangerous situation -- not just for me but for people in leadership roles who are trying to save lives all across this country," she said.

PHOTO: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer appears on ABC's, "Good Morning America," on Oct. 9, 2020.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer appears on ABC's, "Good Morning America," on Oct. 9, 2020.
ABC News

"Each time he has tweeted about me, each time that he has said 'liberate Michigan' and said I should negotiate with the very people who are arrested because they're 'good people,' that incites more domestic terror," Whitmer went on to say. "And I am not the only governor going through this. Certainly it's been worse for me than most, but it is not unique to me, it is not even unique to Democrats. This White House has a duty to call it out and they won't do it; in fact, they encourage it."

ABC News' Jeff Costello, Libby Cathey, Bill Hutchinson, Ivan Pereira, Alexander Mallin and Luke Barr contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events