FBI uncovers plot to kidnap Michigan governor

By Veronica Rocha, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020
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2:52 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Facebook cooperating with FBI in Michigan investigation, company says 

From CNN's Donie O’Sullivan

Facebook is cooperating with the FBI’s investigation into an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

The federal criminal complaint filed Thursday detailed how the suspects had used Facebook, including a private Facebook group, to discuss the alleged plot. 

"We proactively reached out and cooperated with the FBI early in this ongoing investigation,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN.

Adding, “We remove content, disable accounts and immediately report to law enforcement when there is a credible threat of imminent harm to people or public safety."

 

4:04 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

5 of the 6 men accused in plot to kidnap Michigan governor appear in federal court

From CNN's Christina Carrega

CNN has obtained the mugshots for 5 of the 6 suspects indicted by federal officials for plotting to kidnap the Governor of Michigan. They were held at the Kent County jail facilities prior to their arraignment. Top row left to right: Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks. Bottom row left to right: Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta. Delaware resident Barry Croft is not pictured.
CNN has obtained the mugshots for 5 of the 6 suspects indicted by federal officials for plotting to kidnap the Governor of Michigan. They were held at the Kent County jail facilities prior to their arraignment. Top row left to right: Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks. Bottom row left to right: Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta. Delaware resident Barry Croft is not pictured. Kent County Jail

Five of six men charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appeared in court Thursday on federal charges. 

Earlier Thursday, federal authorities announced they had charged Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta with conspiracy to kidnap. 

Croft did not make an appearance during Thursday's proceedings. It is unclear when he will appear. His information was not immediately available. 

The other defendants appeared before a federal judge in Western Michigan on the charges and will remain in the custody of the US Marshals.

The five men who appeared requested the court appoint them attorneys, and will be appointed counsel. Bond hearings have been scheduled for Oct. 13.

1:41 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Former deputy FBI director: "It's got really all of the earmarks of a very serious plot"

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has "all of the earmarks of a very serious plot."

"This is not a group of, you know, poor hapless nobodies that couldn't pull off a violent act on their own," McCabe told CNN on Thursday. "This is clearly a group of people that were very focused on accomplishing this violent objective. So it's got really all of the earmarks of a very serious plot and I think we're lucky that the FBI was in the place they were to do the work they did today."

The complaint alleges that the group conducted surveillance on the governor's vacation home and detonated a practice explosive – something McCabe said makes the plot "very serious" and "dangerous."

"I can tell you from my own experience having dealt with literally dozens and dozens of similar plots during my own time in the FBI that this plot has all of the hallmarks of a very serious, dangerous situation that we are all fortunate the FBI and partners have gotten in the middle of," he said.

1:38 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Men discussed plans to storm the Capitol and try the governor for "treason," criminal complaint alleges

Six men were charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to a federal criminal complaint.

The complaint details some of the meetings the men had where they discussed the plot. Here's what we know so far:

  • A plan to storm Michigan's Capitol: An informant audio recorded conversations with Adam Fox, one of the six men charged, 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.
  • A plotted treason trial: Fox explained they would try the governor of Michigan for "treason" and he said they would execute the plan before the November 2020 elections, according to the criminal complaint.
  • Possible firearm training: At a June 20 meeting, "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.

1:27 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Whitmer will deliver prepared remarks at 3 p.m.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver prepared remarks this afternoon following an FBI announcement of an alleged plot to kidnap her.

According to a federal criminal complaint, six men were charged Thursday in the alleged plot.

Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were charged in the Western District of Michigan with conspiracy to kidnap.

1:32 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Group of men conducted surveillance on the governor's vacation home and planned to use a bomb as a diversion

Andrew Birge, the US Attorney of the Western District of Michigan
Andrew Birge, the US Attorney of the Western District of Michigan Michigan US Attorney’s Office

Andrew Birge, the US Attorney of the Western District of Michigan, said law enforcement worked together to make sure elected leaders are protected and the men arrested in the plot face up to life in prison if convicted.

"All of us standing here today, want the public to know that federal and state law enforcement are committed to working together to make sure violent extremists never succeed with their plans, particularly when they target our duly elected leaders," Birge said during a news briefing on Thursday.

Birge said the men used security measures like "communicating by encrypted message platforms" and using code words to avoid being detected by law enforcement.

"Among the activities, members of the conspiracy on two occasions conducted coordinated surveillance on the governor's vacation home," Birge said, adding that the men discussed "detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of the home."

Birge said the complaint also indicated that one of the men "purchased a taser for use in the kidnapping and that the group successfully detonated an improvised explosive device wrapped with shrapnel to test its anti-personnel capabilities."

1:23 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Michigan State Police official: "This case is one of the largest" we've had lately

Michigan US Attorney’s Office
Michigan US Attorney’s Office

Col. Joseph Gasper, with the Michigan State Police, said this case is one of the largest his department his been involved in lately.

"This case is one of the largest cases in recent history that the MSP has been involved in, and I think that the nature of this case is rather unprecedented," he said at a news conference.

He added that while US may be in a "period of discourse," right now, law officials are united.

"But it does send a very vivid reminder that while we may be in a time period of discourse — possibly even divisiveness and fighting across the nation — law enforcement stands united," he said.

He continued:

"And for those who think that law enforcement is distracted, let me assure you that we are very much engaged with taking our responsibility to protect the public very seriously. We took an oath to protect and defend and to serve, and together we will take swift action against anyone who is planning or seeking to commit violence or harm to anyone in the state of Michigan."

1:20 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Michigan senate majority leader: "A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all"

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey condemned the threat against the state's governor Thursday, saying "a threat against our Governor is a threat against us all.”

His statement comes as six men were charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Read his full statement:

“A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all. We condemn the actions of the group of individuals that plotted against Governor Whitmer and state government. These people are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions. They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 
Citizens who care about government show their passion by voting. Only terrorists resort to violence. We extend our gratitude to the men and women in law enforcement for their work to thwart this plan and reach a safe conclusion. The Governor and her family are in our thoughts in prayers.”

1:12 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Court appearances set for men accused in plot to kidnap Michigan governor

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

The five defendants arrested by the FBI yesterday will make an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Sally Berens at 2 p.m. Thursday.

The sixth defendant is not expected to be in court today. The five defendants are expected to appear in person.