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Virginia governor on alleged kidnapping plot: Trump's rhetoric 'emboldening' white supremacists

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who was allegedly discussed as a possible kidnapping target by members of a Michigan militia group arrested last week, said Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE’s rhetoric is “emboldening” white supremacists.

Northam told CNN’s “New Day” that Trump’s words have inspired groups like those charged with plotting to abduct Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerAtlas departure from White House cheered by public health officials Michigan restaurant raises K after defying state lockdown measures Ohio governor on impeachment articles filed against him: 'We have to do whatever we can to slow this virus down' MORE (D) over coronavirus restrictions.

The governor said he's received “multiple” threats since January but maintained he does not “govern under a cloud of intimidation.”

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“That's not who I am. And this is not about me," he said. "It's not about the governor of Michigan. This is about this country. And it's about a president that is emboldening these individuals, these white supremacists."

Northam pointed to Trump’s comments after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, in which the president said there were “very fine people on both sides,” as well as his tweets this year calling to “LIBERATE” Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota. The president called for Virginia to be liberated after Northam passed gun reform bills that angered pro-gun activists.

“Words matter,” the governor told CNN. “And these people take their marching orders from individuals like the president. It’s unfortunate, and it needs to stop.”

The governor also drew a line from the “mixed messages coming out of Washington” on the COVID-19 pandemic to the kidnapping plot. 

Northam said he’s heard “nothing” from Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Trump campaign, RNC announce 0 million post-election fundraising haul Michigan voter fraud hearing goes viral for alleged flatulence, unruly witness MORE about the case.

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He said he’s been “in harm’s way” before, specifically mentioning when he was in the Army during Operation Desert Storm.

“In that conflict, we knew that there were folks in another country, in Iraq, that disliked us and they were the ones spewing the hatred and the bigotry,” he said. “And now it’s coming from our own president, and that’s what’s so disheartening to me as an American, as a governor, as a veteran.”

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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany stood by Trump in a statement to CNN affiliate WTVR in Richmond, Va., saying he has "continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate."

"Governor Whitmer, and now Governor Northam, are sowing division by making these outlandish allegations," McEnany said. "America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot."

Last week, the FBI announced that a group of six men had been charged with plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor amid conservative pushback to her coronavirus restrictions. An FBI agent testified in court this week that Northam was also discussed as a possible target.