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  1. US Election 2020
8 October 2020updated 28 Jul 2021 5:37am

FBI says it thwarted a plan to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor

The men were also apparently plotting to overthrow the US government. 

By Emily Tamkin

The FBI said on Thursday (8 September) that it thwarted a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, and overthrow the government. 

Authorities said the six men had been discussing plans to take Whitmer hostage since at least the summer. Michigan authorities later shared that they had charged 13 men. They also said the men wanted to carry out this plot ahead of the November election and put Whitmer on trial. 

Whitmer, a Michigan native, made news – as covered in this New Statesman profile – earlier on in the pandemic for introducing stay at home orders to keep the people of her state safe. She also tussled with Trump, criticising him for leaving states to bid against one another for life-saving equipment.

Trump, for his part, said in March that he told the vice-president Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force, not to call governors hostile to the administration, explicitly mentioning “the woman in Michigan”.

[see also: Donald Trump’s hubris in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic is pure Americana]

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Nor was Trump the only one opposed to Whitmer’s stances. In the spring, protesters in Michigan apparently chanted comparisons of “Whitmer” and “Hitler”, implying that stay at home orders were comparable to the Nazis’ crimes. Michigan also had to close down its capitol building after threats on Whitmer’s life.

Whitmer has stood up to the president. She has stared down political pressure in her own state. It earned her national praise and attention (and, briefly, consideration for the position of Joe Biden’s running mate). It also allegedly earned her a kidnapping plot. Zoom out just a little and the situation clearly shows how not only polarised but intense and violent some elements of American politics are today. 

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Speaking after news of the alleged plot broke, Whitmer cited Trump’s apparent refusal to condemn white supremacy in the first presidential debate. She also offered an elegant understatement: “2020 has been a hard year for all of us.”

For more election News in Brief, visit our US election 2020 hub.