Unhinged rants, conspiracy theories, Confederate flags and BIG guns: The chilling social media posts and videos of the Trump-loving 13 ‘militia’ who ‘planned to kidnap Michigan’s governor and incite a “civil war”‘
- Thirteen people were arrested across Michigan and charged on Thursday with a plot to kidnap the governor
- Six of the men were arrested on federal charges; the other seven face state domestic terror charges
- Many of the 13 boasted on social media of their support for Donald Trump, or anarchist beliefs
- Alt-Right imagery such as the Gadsden Flag and Boogaloo Boys memes populated their pages and feeds
- They plotted to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home in Michigan and carried out surveillance on it
- The men practiced shooting, combat drills and even made their own explosives
- Their plan was foiled by undercover agents and an FBI informant who they had tried to recruit to help
- Whitmer called the men ‘sick and depraved’ and said she would ‘never have expected’ a kidnap plot
- Joe Biden blamed Trump’s ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN’ tweet in April for the plot
Social media accounts belonging to several of the 13 men arrested over alleged plots to kidnap Michigan’s governor and incite a ‘civil war’ were a hive of pro-Trump, pro-gun and anti-government material, it has emerged.
Many of the men took to social media to share conspiracy theories about threats to their civil liberties, and rant about government over-reach.
Gretchen Whitmer, the Democrat governor, has become a lightning rod for Trump supporters as a result of her stringent coronavirus lockdown.
On social media, many of the 13 – seven members of a militia group, and six who plotted to overthrow the government, enlisting the militia’s help – posted anarchist and libertarian memes and discussions.
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Brandon Caserta, one of six men facing federal charges for a kidnap plot on Gretchen Whitmer, was charged on Thursday
Local 4 reporter Jason Colthorp spoke to neighbors of Musico and Morrison in Munith, who complained of gunshots
Pete Musico, 42, the alleged founder of militia group Wolverine Watchmen – Michigan is nicknamed the Wolverine State – posted a series of videos on YouTube claiming the government was ‘robbing’ taxpayers.
‘When are you going to say enough is enough?’ he said. ‘When are you going to see they are taking our money from us? They are robbing us, wanting us to be like Venezuela?
‘These politicians keep on robbing us, and putting you against me, when we are facing the same problems in our life.’
In another clip, driving along the highway, he launches into a monologue against compulsory seatbelts.
‘I’m forced to wear a seatbelt in a fully-protected automobile, that I bought,’ he said. ‘My rights are being taken away from me!’
Pete Musico posted a series of videos on his YouTube channel criticizing the government, seatbelts and infrastructure rules
Yet another video, entitled OK Boomer, shows him drives with Joseph Morrison, reportedly his son-in-law, and ranting against the modern world.
‘We as a society are morally corrupt,’ he says. ‘The government forces us to live on grid, on a power line. Thanks, Boomer!’
Morrison joins in with his anti-establishment, anti-modern world musings.
‘Some of the best vehicles I’ve ever owned were early 90s, pre-Nafta, built to last,’ he says.
A Twitter account which appeared to belong to Musico spouted, for several months in 2016, a stream of conspiracy theories and anti-government rants.
‘Donald Trump would be great for this country he wants the middle class to succeed the class of people that built this country,’ he tweeted in May 2016.
‘We need to get away from the controllers of this country and become America again that’s what Trump wants.’
He ranted against Hillary Clinton, in favor of Second Amendment rights, against vaccinations and in anger the price of his car insurance.
He also threatened ‘to sue the federal government for my wife’s healthcare’.
Musico and Morrison were arrested at the home they shared with their wives and children in Munith, 40 miles south of Lansing.
The rundown-seeming compound, with its Confederate flags and trash strewn among the discarded children’s toys, was allegedly the scene of ‘training camps’, Local 4 News reported.
A journalist with the channel reported that neighbors have complained in the past about the home, which had a mobile home in front of it near the road, as being an eyesore.
They also complained about gunshots, and semi-automatic weapons being fired for hours at a time.
‘Just yesterday, the woman who lives next door heard a “boom” that she and her husband believed to be then testing one of their explosives,’ reporter Jason Colthorp said.
Six of the men were taken into custody in a raid on a house in suburban Detroit on Thursday morning.
Brandon Caserta, another of the six, on social media praised the Declaration of Independence as ‘an anarchist document’
They have been named as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta and 24-year-old Ty Garbin.
In a series of memes in 2017 Croft praised Donald Trump as ‘inspiring!’
He posted a video of himself in a garage, in a Revolutionary War tricorne hat, talking about how civil liberties were under attack and the government was ‘coming for you’.
‘You’ve got Bill Gates talking about his vaccines, and how it’s going to be mandatory for everybody to have his bracelet,’ he said.
‘I’m going to tell y’all, man, it’s unmistakeable. A lot of people have said: “Oh, you’re a conspiracy theorist” – but I’m telling you, they are coming for you; coming for your freedom, coming for your religion, and they are not going to stop, period.
‘Even the police, Mr I’ve Got a Job to Do. They are even sabotaging religious expression. I know y’all like backing the blue and that – but these people are not your friend.
Barry Croft said the government was ‘coming for your freedom’
‘I want you to know something, because I’m not stupid. These people are pushing you to hostility. They want hostility to break out. They want a reason to be able to use military force. That’s why they are doing all this stuff.’
Brandon Caserta, another of the six, on social media praised the Declaration of Independence as ‘an anarchist document.’
He posted photos of himself rapidly loading a rifle, wearing a ‘F*** the government’ shirt.
One meme The Daily Dot obtained from Caserta’s Facebook page before it was abruptly deleted Thursday was captioned ‘What Your Face Mask Says About You,’ and features four women wearing masks with demeaning messages superimposed on them.
‘I’m an obedient slave who obeys their masters [sic] commands,’ reads one.
‘The government has authority over my body,’ reads another.
The Detroit News, meanwhile, featured a video from Caserta’s TikTok account with him railing against the government while wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt — clothes associated with the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation of far-right, anti-authority troublemakers.
The other seven men – Musico and Morrison among them – have been charged by Attorney General Dana Nessell with allegedly plotting to overthrow governments, attack the Michigan State Capitol and incite a ‘civil war’.
All are members of a militia known as Wolverine Watchmen, one of multiple known militia groups in Michigan.
They were named as Paul Bellar, 21, Shawn Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Michael Null, 38, William Null, 38, Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42.
On Thursday, Whitmer said she was shocked by the ‘depraved’ and ‘sick’ plot. She also blamed the men’s hatred on Trump, who she said had spent the last seven months ‘stoking division’.
Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico, both 42, were arrested at Musico’s home in Munith and charged on Thursday
Adam Fox (L) and Brandon Caserta (R) are among the 13 militia men charged over the plots
Kaleb Franks and Daniel Harris, another of the two men allegedly involved
William Null and Eric Molitor were charged by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office
Michael Null, left, an alleged member of Wolverine Watchmen and Ty Garbin, right, who is also said to have been a member
Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer (at a press conference on Thursday) called the men ‘sick and depraved’
The men were all referred to as extremists on Thursday at a press conference where FBI agents and prosecutors shared details of the plot.
According to authorities, the first group of six men started plotting in early June, carried out surveillance on her home and practiced shooting and combat drills. They also tried to build their own explosives, according to the FBI affidavit.
The FBI discovered the plot through an informant who is also part of a known militia that the men tried to recruit from as part of a wider effort to ‘take’ the state capitol with 200 people.
Fox and Croft were the ringleaders, according to the affidavit.
They ‘agreed to unite others in their cause’ to ‘overthrow’ multiple state governments that they believe are violating the US. Constitution’.
In one of the alleged meetings, he talked about kidnapping Whitmer as she made her way into her vacation home, and told one of the other men: ‘Grab the f***** Governor. Just grab the b***h’.’
The alleged plot began with a meeting where the men discussed forming their own ‘self-sufficient’ society in early June.
‘At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the US Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer,’ the FBI affidavit claimed.
The men then tried to recruit members of the Michigan militia group to help, the affidavit claims.
In one phone call that the FBI informant recorded on June 14, Fox said he needed 200 men to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages including the Governor.
He said they would ‘try the State Government for treason’ and that he would do all of this before the election.
On June 20, the men met at Fox’s store in Grand Rapids.
They held a meeting in the basement which was accessed through a trap door, hidden under a rug. Fox then made them all put their cell phones in a box which he took upstairs. The FBI informant was wearing a wire.
Whitmer and her husband’s vacation home in Michigan, where the group had carried out surveillance
The FBI were seen raiding Garbin’s property in Detroit on Thursday morning. FBI agents filed their affidavit hours later
Six people were arrested in the early morning raid, that was the result of information an informant who infiltrated the militia
Garbin’s house in Hartland, on the outskirts of Detroit, was raided on Thursday
Broken windows at the home in Michigan on Thursday afternoon
The FBI search warrant at the scene of the raid on Thursday
At that meeting, the men discussed using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to attack police and take the Capitol Building.
WHITMER BLAMES MILITIAMEN ON TRUMP
At her press conference on Thursday, Whitmer tried to pin some of the hatred for her on Trump.
‘2020 has been a hard year for all of us….it’s not over yet. But here’s what I know…
‘This should be a moment for national unity when we all pull together as Americans to meet this challenge head on. Seeing the humanity in one another and doing our part to help get out country through this.
‘Instead, our head of state has spent the last 7 months denying science.
‘Just last week , the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two militia groups.
“Stand back and stand by.”
‘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 are complicit.
‘When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit,’ she said.
They also discussed meeting again to practice firearms and tactical training.
On June 25, Fox live streamed a video on a closed Facebook group where he ranted about Whitmer, calling her a ‘tyrant b***h’.
He said: ‘I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something. You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do.’
On June 28, Fox, his girlfriend, Garbin, Franks and Caserta attended a training exercise in Munich, Michigan, at one of the militia member’s houses.
Franks left afterwards.
Fox, Garbin, Caserta and the informant remained. They were told to leave though if they did not want to participate in the attacks against the government and politicians.
Between July 10-12, the group attended a different training exercise in Wisconsin.
They practices shooting and combat drills and, according to the FBI, some of them tried to build IEDs with ‘black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BB’s for shrapnel’.
‘They were faulty and didn’t detonate as planned but the attempted explosions were recorded on video.’
On July 18, some of the men met again in Ohio and discussed attacking a Michigan State Police facility. Garbin then discussed ‘shooting up’ Whitmer’s vacation home.
That day, he also said he did not want to go after the Capitol but was ‘cool’ with trying to kidnap her from her vacation home.
On July 27, Fox told the informant that their best chance of kidnapping Whitmer would be as she was arriving or leaving her vacation home or the Governor’s summer residence.
He said it was a ‘snatch and grab’, and told the informant: ‘Grab the f****n’ Governor. Just grab the b***h. Because at that point, we do that dude, — it’s over.’
Later that day, on a group chat, he wrote: ‘OK, how’s everyone feeling about the kidnapping?’ None of the others replied.
The following day, he wrote on a Facebook group: ‘We about to be busy ladies and gentlemen…This is where the Patriot shows up. Sacrifices his time, money, blood sweat and tears… it starts now so get f*****g prepared!!!’
According to the FBI affidavit, the men planned to then move her to a secure location in Wisconsin, where they would put her on ‘trial’ but they did not have a location in mind, and planned to use a realtor to find the safe house.
On Thursday, Whitmer responded to the plot at a press conference where she appeared to blame the men’s antics on Donald Trump, one of her most vocal critics.
‘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 have to be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this,’ she said.
She called the men ‘sick and depraved’ and said now is a time for ‘unity’ and not ‘more division.’
Joe Biden, Democrat presidential candidate, also said Trump was to blame for the plot.
Trump fanned the flames in Michigan by tweeting this on April 17
Whitmer was widely condemned in Michigan for enforcing a lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. Above, protesters on April 15 storming the state capitol with guns. The FBI says some of the men indicted were there
‘The words he utters matters,’ Biden said as he landed in Phoenix, Nevada to campaign with Kamala Harris and John McCain’s widow, Cindy.
Asked if he thought Trump’s ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN’ tweet encouraged militias like this, he said: ‘Yes I do.’
‘Why won’t the president just say: “Stop. Stop, stop, stop,” and we will pursue you if you don’t,’ the Democratic candidate added.
Whitmer was widely criticized for her tough lockdown rules in Michigan earlier this year.
There were widespread protests in the state by people who said they wanted the right to continue to work, including by some who stormed the state capitol with guns.
Her residence has received security updates in recent weeks.
On Thursday morning, three hours before the FBI announcement, Trump called Whitmer the ‘lockdown queen,’ having previously called her ‘that woman from Michigan.’
He told Fox Business News’ Maria Bartiromo: ‘I won Michigan, which hadn’t been won in decades and decades.
‘And we should win it again because I brought so much business there because she’s the lockup queen.
‘What she’s done to that, that place is horrible. She’s locked it up. She’s got people like living in prison. The courts just overturned her. They said what you’re doing is unconstitutional.’