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

Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerCompany continues operating pipeline through Michigan despite governor's order Michigan Republican offers bill to fine fact-checkers for errors Michigan to end remote work after reaching 55 percent vaccination rate MORE (D-Mich.) said Thursday that President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers 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.