Democrats are blaming President Donald Trump for the kidnapping plot against Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.), saying his "LIBERATE MICHIGAN" tweet from April motivated the extremist group.
Federal authorities charged 13 men—one of whom is an anarchist and Trump critic—involved in a scheme to kidnap the governor on Thursday. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D.) suggested that Trump's April tweet motivated the attackers.
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— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) October 8, 2020
Whitmer also blamed Trump’s rhetoric for the plot at a press conference on Thursday, saying the president gives hateful groups a "rallying cry" and is "complicit" for failing to condemn far-right extremists. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also cited Trump’s April statement and tweeted that the president was "giving oxygen to the bigotry" behind the plot to kidnap Whitmer.
Despite the president repeatedly condemning white supremacy and hateful extremist groups, Democrats continue to press Trump on the issue and blame him for inciting violence. Trump condemned racism, the KKK, neo-Nazis, and "hate groups" in a statement following the Charlottesville rally in 2017. He condemned the far-right Proud Boys group on Fox News last week, following up on his comments at the presidential debate. And on Thursday night he tweeted that "defending all Americans" was his job as president.
"I do not tolerate any extreme violence," Trump tweeted. "Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President."
Trump’s April tweet was in response to the plethora of executive orders that Whitmer issued throughout the year in response to the coronavirus pandemic—which the state supreme court recently declared unconstitutional.
One of the men involved in the plot called the president a "tyrant" in a video, and others charged on Thursday were allegedly involved in an anarchist, anti-police, and anti-government group called the Wolverine Watchmen. FBI investigators discovered that six of those charged had spied on the governor's home and had met on multiple occasions over the summer to plot the kidnapping, and the group now faces federal terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons charges.