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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: whitmer kidnap plot

Michigan Militia Wanted Whitmer Kidnapping To Spark ‘Boogaloo’ Civil War

One of the Michigan militiamen wanted to spread Gov. Gretchen Whitmer out on a table, hogtied and displayed while they took pictures of themselves. Another worked on detonating an improvised explosive device in his yard while his 10-year-old daughter offered him a Doritos chip. The paramilitary training, the reconnaissance at Whitmer’s home, the weapons collections—it was all part of a plan to spark a nationwide civil war, the men believed. "We wanted to be the first to kick it off," a key witness testified.

The testimonial evidence in the trial of the four men charged with plotting to kidnap and kill Whitmer in its first weeks has been both riveting and disturbing. Most of all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the entrapment defense planned by their attorneys is unlikely to hold water: All of the cooperating witnesses so far have attested that none of the FBI’s multiple informants at work on the case induced anyone to commit the crimes.

A 26-year-old onetime member of the Wolverine Watchmen, as the group called themselves, from Hartland Township named Ty Garbin was the prosecution’s primary witness this week. Garbin, who entered a guilty plea last year as part of a cooperation agreement, told the jury that no one else convinced him or anyone else in the group to join the kidnapping plot.

The defendants—Adam Fox, 37, of Grand Rapids; Barry Croft, 44, of Bear, Delaware; Daniel Harris, 23, of Lake Orion; and Brandon Caserta, 32, of Canton, Michigan, all members of the so-called “Wolverine Watchmen” militia—are leaning heavily on claims that the government entrapped them into the plot to abduct Whitmer from her summer home and put her on “trial,” for which they now face federal kidnapping-conspiracy charges. The trial’s outcome could have broad ramifications for how federal authorities tackle the rising tide of right-wing domestic terrorism, as well as ongoing prosecution of the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrectionists.

Garbin testified that, when he joined the Wolverine Watchmen, he was okay being labeled "a domestic terrorist," and so were his co-defendants, since they had no illusions about the nature of what they were planning. He described the various actions the group took in preparation for executing their plan, ranging from building explosives to constructing a "shoot house" to casing the governor’s summer home, all while creating secret chat rooms online to avoid detection.

At the end of his direct examination, the prosecutor asked Garbin whether he or any of the other Watchmen had been convinced by FBI informants to join the conspiracy. Garbin flatly answered: “No.”

Earlier, prosecutors had asked Garbin to describe what “Boogaloo”—the far-right civil-war movement to which the militiamen subscribed—meant.

“The Boogaloo is a movement that consists of multiple political ideologies…the foundation of it is basically we need a second civil war, another revolution,” Garbin explained. “The plan was for us to basically be … the ignition to it and hopefully other states and other groups follow suit.”

Last week, the jury heard how Croft had worked on a setting off a homemade bomb during a training session with the others in Cambria, Wisconsin. On a recording, they could hear Croft being approached by his 10-year-old daughter.

“Daddy, do you want a Dorito?” she asked.

“Honey, I’m making explosives, can you get away from me please?” Croft responded, before adding: “I love you.”

An undercover FBI agent testified that Croft had tried to light the fuse twice, but it had failed both times.

Garbin described how the group’s plans had progressed, beginning with a plan to storm the state Capitol in Lansing, taking hostages and holding televised “trials” of state officials, to be followed by their executions. The men also discussed firebombing police vehicles and targeting police to create a diversion while they committed bank robberies to finance their operations.

Finally realizing that storming the Capitol wasn’t feasible, the group's focus shifted to kidnapping Whitmer in late June, Garbin testified. He detailed how the group rehearsed by building a “shoot house” that would enable them to train for a home invasion by simulating the interior of Whitmer’s summer home.

Garbin said the training included first-aid lessons, with the expectation they would suffer combat wounds while engaging police. They also built a firing range on his property, intended to sharpen their shooting skills, using tires filled with sand.

Last week, jurors heard recordings of Fox describing his hopes for kidnapping Whitmer.

“We just want the bitch, we want the tyrant bitch,” he said. “I want to have the governor hog-tied, laid out on a table while we all pose around like we just made the world’s biggest goddamn drug bust, bro.”

Most of the men were similarly inclined to violence, according to the testimony. Garbin said that Harris—who would describe bloody scenarios with a “blank” face—was determined to kill Whitmer at any cost. “It was suicidal … someone, or a group of people to go kill her and then go kill themselves afterwards,” he said.

Jurors also heard a recording of Caserta ranting in a similarly cold-blooded fashion about taking on government officials.

“I’m taking out as many of those motherfuckers as I can. Every single one. And if you guys are going to give any of these motherfuckers a chance, any of these gang, fucking criminal ass, government thugs that rob people every day, if you are going to give them even a second to try and speak or tell their story? Don’t even fuck with me dude,” Caserta could be heard saying.

However, Croft was the one member of their group who apparently made everyone else nervous because of his eagerness for violence. FBI agent Christopher Long testified last week that at one point, at a meeting in Ohio where he was not present, other Wolverine Watchmen talked about voting Croft from the group because they believed he was too violent even for them and that he wanted to move too quickly—and that would end up with all of them being arrested.

“Mr. Croft was ready to do it right now,” Long testified. “Their concern was he would get them locked up.”

Similarly, Garbin testified that Croft wanted the Watchmen to carry out a series of bank robberies to raise cash for the plan. He thought that launching a preemptive assault on the state police would prevent them from responding quickly.

“He wanted to attack that facility, firebomb it and destroy as many police cars as possible,” Garbin said.

These plans resemble many of the fantasies right-wing extremists have harbored and cultivated among themselves for generations about fomenting a civil war that would overthrow liberal democracy. In fact, Croft’s plan practically replicates a 1967 plot in Seattle by a far-right terrorist group called the Minutemen. Their scheme, as it happened, also backfired when their gang was infiltrated by informants, and the men all wound up in prison.

It’s a familiar blueprint, with a familiar outcome.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Fighting The MAGA Perversion Of Patriotism

In September, an Arizona student who tested positive for COVID-19 was ordered to quarantine for several days. Seems normal, no? No. The boy's father barged into principal Diane Vargo's office and demanded the kid be allowed back into school immediately. Vargo was alarmed when the intruder told her that others were on their way, warning, "If you keep doing this, we're going to have a big problem." Two other men did arrive, one carrying military-style zip-ties. They told Vargo that they were going to make a "citizen's arrest."

As it happens, the intruders were the ones arrested — by the police.

The same month, in Michigan, a meeting of the Barry-Eaton District Board of Health was disrupted when a man threatened to make a citizen's arrest of a county health official after a school mask mandate was announced. That was mild compared with the death threats Genesee County officials have received over masks. And that, in turn, was less serious than what happened in Kent County, where someone tried to run a health official off the road.

Stories of threats and violence aimed at ordinary Americans who are simply serving on school boards, supervising elections or holding public office are not new. It's a mashup of pandemic-induced mania, social media misinformation, Trump-incited disinhibition, and something in the water.

The citizen's arrest has become a theme running through some of the most sinister of the recent plots. It has a long pedigree, originating in English common law. In the U.S., it has been codified in a number of ways by states. But the invocation of the citizen's arrest as an excuse for political violence is new. Former President Donald Trump set this table with his "lock her up" chants and accusations of treason against anyone who damaged his fragile psyche. His 2019 Twitter tantrum at Rep. Adam Schiff was the gold standard: "I want Schiff questioned at the highest level ... Arrest for Treason?"

Back in 2020, when a gang of 14 right-wing nuts plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, they claimed they were effecting a "citizen's arrest." In a normal world, such a claim would be instantly dismissed as risible. But we're not in that world. We're in the world where the sheriff of Barry County, Dar Leaf, seemed to think it had merit. "It's just a charge, and they say a 'plot to kidnap' and you got to remember that," Leaf told a local Fox affiliate. "Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt?"

"A lot of people are angry with the governor," he said. And then, as if the next words flowed logically, he added, "and they want her arrested." Right, because when we dislike the policies of duly elected officials, we arrest them?

The threats are proliferating. The Washington Post reported that lawmakers were subjected to 3,900 threats in 2017. By 2020, that had more than doubled to 8,600, and in 2021, the rate rose even faster. As Tim Alberta noted in his Atlantic profile of Rep. Peter Meijer, the fear factor in Republican politics has changed. Republicans displayed a total lack of political courage in dealing with Trump from 2015 to the present. But because they didn't stand up to him when the consequences would have been merely political, they/we now face a very different climate: fearing for their safety and that of their families. Describing a colleague who said he couldn't vote to certify the 2020 election, Meijer said: "Remember, this wasn't a hypothetical. You were casting that vote after seeing with your own two eyes what some of these people are capable of. If they're willing to come after you inside the U.S. Capitol, what will they do when you're at home with your kids?"

Many members of the January 6 mob didn't conceive of themselves as coup plotters (in contrast to those in the Oval Office). They thought they were vindicating democracy, not destroying it. As they were storming the Capitol, they were exchanging messages that reflected the treason talk Trump had normalized. "You are executing a citizen's arrest. We have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud."

There is a substrate of perverted patriotism here. The invocation of the citizen's arrest signifies a wish for legitimacy. They yearn to be responsible citizens, upholding the law and the duties of the individual. They have been corrupted — all the more reason for the rest of Americans to assert their uncorrupted patriotism. They must defend the election workers, health care workers, school board members, journalists, politicians, and anyone else who is being abused by the mob. If patriotism animates only the worst among us, we are lost.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Do We Let People Brandish Guns In Public?

Some of the sickest images to come out of our recent turmoil have featured Americans waving guns at other Americans — not in self-defense but to provoke fear. The worst showed armed thugs threatening Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the state capitol steps over her anti-COVID regulations. (This was separate from an alleged plot by a different set of creeps to kidnap her.)

There were other low points. Phoenix saw a group of armed exhibitionists modeling their weapons at a demonstration for vote counting, and no one was arguing with them. Arizona is a state where just about anyone over 21 can carry a gun on the streets, permit not required.

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Watch: Feds Release Video Of Michigan Gang Training With Assault Weapons

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Federal prosecutors released disturbing footage created by the suspects involved in the plot to kidnap Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

On Friday, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge publicly unveiled a trove of evidence, including text messages and recorded footage that was used presented in a hearing for the suspects identified as—Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta—who now face charges for their involvement in the alarming plot.

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Gov. Northam, Militia Target, Hits Trump’s ‘Deadly’ Rhetoric

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's office blamed Donald Trump for inciting violence from his supporters, saying Trump's rhetoric is dangerous.

A spokesperson for Northam made the comment after the FBI announced on Tuesday that right-wing extremists who were allegedly plotting to overthrow and kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also talked about carrying out a similar plot against Northam.

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Militia Misfits Are Ridiculous And Infantile -- Yet Still Terribly Dangerous

Back in my own days playing guns, we had the coolest hideout ever: a hut we'd built on a wooded half acre out of lumber liberated from a subdivision under construction. The way we looked at it, they owed us; a fair exchange for converting the woods and ponds where we hiked, fished, and ice-skated into a suburban subdivision. Rolling Hills, they called it.

OK, so the fireplace didn't draw, the roof leaked, and the secret compartment under the floor where we'd stashed our prized collection of naughty magazines got nibbled into the world's naughtiest mouse nest. It was a perfect hideout. No girls allowed. (Not that any of us knew an actual female person who'd willingly crawl into that dank interior.)

It was our secret refuge. We were twelve years old. We called ourselves "The Royal Majestic Order of the Quince," after a nearby flowering bush. We weren't trying to scare people, but not just anybody could be a Quince. Our weapons of war were BB guns, slingshots and acorns. Sometimes we took our little brothers prisoner and locked them up until they cried. Then a little while longer. We fancied ourselves merciless and bold.

Anyway, I couldn't help but think of all that pre-adolescent play-acting when I read about the "Wolverine Watchmen" and their hidden basement hideout behind a trap door under a vacuum cleaner store in rural Michigan.

We soon grew out of it. The Wolverines, apparently not.

See, that's the thing about these self-styled militiamen and wannabe terrorists. Their view of the world is essentially juvenile. Which doesn't mean they can't be dangerous. Quite the opposite.

To underline the point, here's a classic militia rant: "I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control."

Sound familiar? It's Timothy McVeigh, terrorist murderer of 168 people in the 1993 Oklahoma City truck bombing.

Show me somebody who becomes obsessed with government "tyranny," poses for photos carrying an AR-15 and staring grimly in camouflage fatigues, and who hangs out Confederate flags, and I'll show you a bearded child. In contemporary America, there are few things more dangerous.

Only a child could possibly imagine that kidnapping and murdering Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could lead to anything but disaster. "Grab the fuckin' governor," Wolverine honcho Adam Fox allegedly told an FBI informant. "Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude—it's over."

Now their lives are essentially over, all 13 of them facing state and federal charges after months of accumulating weapons and night-vision scopes, building bombs, communicating in coded messages, and even conducting post-midnight surveillance of the governor's lakeside vacation home.

Playing guns. One guy was going to paint his fishing boat black to facilitate a late night kidnapping; others planned to bomb a nearby highway overpass to distract law enforcement. They first attracted police attention by trying to learn the home addresses of local cops. That will get you busted every time.

Everything came apart after a couple of Wolverines got cold feet and went to the law. The Feds had informants wired for sound during meetings in the basement hideout—two of them, who didn't know about each other.

Gov. Whitmer, see, had provoked the outrage of bearded children across Michigan with a series of stringent lockdown orders meant to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus. "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," the honorary head Wolverine in the White House tweeted on April 17 amid his deadly campaign to "re-open" the economy before public health officials thought it wise.

Two weeks later, armed militiamen occupied the statehouse in Lansing. At least two of the Wolverines participated. I kept wondering what would happen if some fool pulled the trigger. No way and no how should such conduct be legal. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

Trump urged surrender: "The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire," he wrote. "These are very good people, but they are angry."

Down in the basement, meanwhile, Wolverine chieftain Adam Fox vented: "Everything's gonna have to be annihilated, man. We're gonna topple it all, dude. It's what great frickin' conquerors, man, we're just gonna conquer every fuckin' thing, man."

Evidently, Fox's girlfriend had left him. I can't imagine why.

Then after Gov. Whitmer chided Boss Trump for his refusal to condemn right-wing extremists and white supremacists, he complained that she hadn't thanked him for protecting her. Trump cited "My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement" quite as if he'd played some role in the bust, which he surely did not.

The thing is, all the guns, camouflage fatigues and subterranean hideouts in the world can't give these bearded children what they need—decent jobs and good women to help them keep their heads on straight.

Extremist Michigan Sheriff Defends Alleged Kidnap Plotters

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Barry County, Michigan, Sheriff Dar Leaf defended the actions of men accused of an alleged terrorist kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an interview that went viral on Twitter with Fox 17's Aaron Parseghian.

Leaf acknowledged he knows two of the men, Michael and William Null, residents of Barry County, who are facing charges due to their alleged involvement. Leaf described the men as "nice and respectful" and downplayed the kidnapping charges, saying that it's possible the men were justified in their actions: "A lot of people are angry with the governor and they want her arrested, so are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt, because you can still in Michigan … make a felony arrest."

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