LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer refuted some of the wording in the FBI’s criminal complaint about several Michiganders' alleged plot to kidnap her, saying the men are “not ‘militias.' They’re domestic terrorists.”
State and federal officials issued charges against 13 people -- 12 from Michigan -- on Thursday after the FBI uncovered a conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home, hold her hostage and overthrow the Michigan government.
According to the criminal complaint, six of the men were specifically involved in months of scheming, including experimenting with homemade explosives, surveilling the vacation home and inspecting a bridge with intent to destroy it.
What Whitmer said
Whitmer didn’t mention an issue with the wording when she spoke Thursday about the kidnapping plot, but she took to Twitter Friday morning to make her views clear.
“They’re not ‘militias,’" Whitmer tweeted at 8:27 a.m. Friday. “They’re domestic terrorists endangering and intimidating their fellow Americans. Words matter.”
Click here to read some quick militia history from our Morning Newsletter. The word might not mean what it used to anymore.
You can hear what Whitmer said during her Thursday news conference in the video below.
How word ‘militia’ was used by authorities
Throughout the complaint, the FBI references a “militia” group -- later revealed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to be the “Wolverine Watchmen.” Seven members or associates of that group were charged due to information gathered by the FBI while they were investigating the kidnapping plot.
To be clear, the six men directly charged with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer -- Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft -- were not part of the alleged militia, according to the FBI.
Their link to the militia was that Fox, the apparent leader of the kidnapping scheme, reached out to the Wolverine Watchmen about his plans and met with their leaders, according to court documents. The complaint also mentions members of the alleged kidnapping conspiracy joining the militia for weapons and tactical training.
The seven men linked to the militia -- Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison -- are facing a combined 19 charges that were issued at the state level.
You can listen to Nessel’s full press conference -- which included U.S. attorneys Andrew Birge and Matthew Schnieder, Michigan State Police Col. Joe Gasper and FBI assistant special agent in charge Josh Hauxhurst -- below.