An FBI-led investigation identified six men who were trying to plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The investigation involved multiple informants and undercover FBI personnel.
Based on court documents, the FBI was well aware of the activities of the men charged Thursday and there does not seem to have been an imminent threat posed to Gov. Whitmer, a Democrat.
The documents identify the defendants as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta.
At a meeting in July, allegedly attended and recorded by one of the informants, the men “discussed attacking a Michigan State Police facility, and in a separate conversation after the meeting, Garbin suggested shooting up the Governor’s vacation home,” authorities said.
Then at a July 27 meeting, Fox and an informant discussed a possible kidnapping of Whitmer, with the defendant allegedly saying: “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f—ing governor. Just grab the b—-. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it’s over.”
The federal investigation involved at least one member of a Michigan militia group who was involved in a Second Amendment rally at the Michigan statehouse in June.
That member allegedly told the FBI that the group was considering killing police officers and agreed to become an informant.
But the involvement of that militia in the plot to kidnap the governor appears to be minimal as the group that is charged today allegedly discussed keeping the broader militia out of their actual plan.
In a YouTube video from May, Caserta claimed in a 30-minute diatribe that “the enemy is government.” He shot the video in front of an anarchist’s flag and a map of Michigan.
Caserta did not post on YouTube again until three weeks ago. In that video, Caserta does not speak, and simply loads and poses with a long gun off camera while wearing a shirt that says “F— The Government.”
For months, Whitmer has drawn the ire of militia groups and others opposed to her restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Armed protesters took to the streets of Lansing, the state capital, during the early days of Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown orders. And President Donald Trump famously tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” in April.
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump tweeted on May 1. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
This is a developing story, please refresh for updates.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Michael Kosnar is a Justice Department producer for the NBC News Washington Bureau.
Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny