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Whitmer responds to kidnapping plot, says Trump 'complicit' in stoking extremists

Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Democrats condemn Trump's rhetoric against Michigan governor as allies defend rally MORE (D-Mich.) said Thursday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE's refusal to denounce extremist groups during the first presidential debate acted as a "rallying cry" to militia movements after the FBI reported they had thwarted plans to kidnap her and overthrow the state government.

In a livestream address, Whitmer noted comments Trump made during the first presidential debate in which he avoided explicitly denouncing white supremacy. When Trump was asked to comment on the far-right group Proud Boys, he said "stand back and stand by."

Whitmer said Trump's words was heard as a "rallying cry" to similar groups who were behind the scheme to have her abducted.

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"Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacist and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups," Whitmer said. "Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit."

Federal agents said Thursday morning they had foiled a scheme to kidnap Whitmer created by conspirators aided by members of a Michigan militia called Wolverine Watchmen. Parts of their plans involved visits to the governor's home and explosive device training.

"When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard. But I'll be honest, I never could've imagined anything like this," Whitmer said.

She also took the opportunity to criticize President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer had maintained some of the more stringent coronavirus-related restrictions across Michigan, unlike other bordering Midwest states.

"Our head of state has spent the past 7 months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division," Whitmer said.