Suspects in Michigan plot hid their mobile phones in a box to be safe but failed to check one another for wires, FBI says

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. AP Photo/David Eggert
  • Members of a group charged with plotting to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan were said to have made some security lapses during their meetings.
  • An affidavit from an FBI special agent describes a meeting in which one man collected all other attendees’ mobile phones and put them in a box “to prevent any monitoring.”
  • Unbeknownst to them, the special agent said, an FBI source who attended the meeting was wearing a recording device.
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Several members of an armed group who were charged with plotting to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan at her vacation home failed to thoroughly inspect one another for security breaches during a group meeting, according to an FBI special agent’s affidavit released Thursday.

Adam Fox, one of the six men who was charged in the plot, was said to have met with other accomplices at his business in Grand Rapids on June 20. As a precaution, the affidavit said, Fox conducted the meeting in a basement that was “accessed through a trap door hidden under a rug.”

Fox then collected attendees’ mobile phones in a box and put it upstairs “to prevent any monitoring,” the affidavit said.

One of the attendees, however, was an FBI source who was wearing a recording device. The audio revealed the group discussing plans to attack the Michigan State Capitol and use Molotov cocktails against police vehicles, the affidavit said.

Special Agent Richard J. Trask II said the affidavit relied on information from two confidential sources and two undercover employees but other sources were used during the investigation.

Six men were charged in connection with the kidnapping plot. The FBI said it became aware of the plans sometime in early 2020 through social-media channels. Seven other men were charged with terrorism-related crimes.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” Trask said in the affidavit. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbours and spread their message.”

Fox was quoted saying he needed “200 men” to attack the Capitol in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer.

“Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f—in’ governor. Just grab the b—-,” Fox said during a July 27 meeting recorded by an informant, according to the affidavit. “Because at that point, we do that, dude — it’s over.”

Whitmer has been criticised by conservative activists for the state’s response to the coronavirus. In April, Whitmer extended a stay-at-home order that imposed restrictions on businesses that were classified as essential. The order was later rescinded as part of the state’s reopening plans.

During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Whitmer described the men as “sick and depraved.”

“Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan,” she said.