The group charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also discussed kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, an FBI agent testified in court on Tuesday.
FBI agent Richard Trask testified during a preliminary hearing that the group discussed taking out sitting governors due to their “coronavirus-related lockdown orders.”
“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically governors of Michigan and Virginia, over shut down orders,” Trask said.
The FBI obtained this information during a June 6 meeting in Dublin, Ohio.
“The understanding at the time was to potentially kidnap a sitting governor and remove them from office,” Trask said.
A person who was in attendance at the meeting became an FBI informant, which is how the FBI found out about the meeting, Trask said. He said the informant came forward to authorities himself “based on concerns (over) some of the directions that the group was headed and potential violence.”
The court hearing came days after 13 people were charged in an alleged domestic terror plot to kidnap Whitmer. The alleged scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” according to a federal criminal complaint.
Six people were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap, and seven other people, associated with the paramilitary group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.
Both Whitmer and Northam are Democrats.
How the plot came to be
The six charged by the federal government are Michigan residents Adam Fox, 37, Ty Garbin, 24, Kaleb Franks, 26, Daniel Harris, 23, Brandon Caserta, 32, and Delaware resident Barry Croft, 44.
The seven people charged by the state are Paul Bellar, 21, Shawn Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Michael Null, 38, William Null, 38, Pete Musico, 42, Joseph Morrison, 26. They face a variety of firearm and terror charges.
The FBI became aware of the scheme, first reported by The Detroit News, in early 2020 through a social media group of individuals, according to the federal criminal complaint.
Court documents say the FBI planted a confidential informant to travel to Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting with Croft, Fox and about 13 others.
“They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions … Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” according to the complaint.
By June 14, a second confidential informant confirmed that Fox was introduced to the leader of the group and they met in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The informant audio-recorded conversations with Fox in which he allegedly said he needed “200 men” to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer, according to the criminal complaint.
Fox allegedly explained they would try the governor of Michigan for “treason” and he said they would execute the plan before the November 2020 elections.
On June 20, Fox, Garbin and others met at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids where attendees met in the basement accessed by a trap door hidden under a rug on the main floor, according to the criminal complaint.
“The attendees discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to destroy police vehicles. The attendees also discussed plans for an additional meeting during the first weekend of July when they also would conduct firearms and tactical training,” according to the criminal complaint.
The conspirators conducted surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home on two occasions in late August and September, the complaint said. Croft and Fox discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the vacation home area, according to the FBI.
Earlier this month, Fox confirmed to others in the group that he purchased a taser, which he had previously discussed doing so for use in the kidnapping plot, the court document says. The FBI said Fox, Garbin, Harris and Franks had planned to meet on Tuesday to pay for explosives and swap tactical gear.
CNN’s Christina Carrega, Veronica Stracqualursi and Josh Campbell contributed to this report.