LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the target of an alleged kidnapping plot that included threats of violence, said Sunday she is not worried about violence on Nov. 3, but the state is prepared to keep voters safe that day.
Whitmer also said on CBS “Face the Nation” she believes “there still are serious threats” from individuals aligned with groups similar to those involved in the alleged plot against her, which is a suspected act of domestic terrorism.
Asked by host Margaret Brennan if she is worried about violence on Election Day, in light of the alleged plot against her, Whitmer said: “I’m not worried, but we are preparing to make sure that we do everything to keep people safe.
“We will not tolerate anyone … interfering with someone’s ability to safely vote.”
On Thursday, the federal government charged six men with conspiracy to kidnap in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer, which authorities said they wanted to carry out before Election Day. Also Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel brought charges against seven other men that included supporting terrorism, gang membership, and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony.
Whitmer repeated earlier comments she believes groups such as the Wolverine Watchmen, whose founders are accused in her case, are taking comfort and motivation from statements by President Donald Trump and some Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature, who have spoken at rallies against her emergency orders.
Trump, who tweeted “Liberate Michigan” in capital letters following an anti-Whitmer demonstration at the state Capitol in April, “has been increasingly divisive and downright dangerous,” Whitmer said.
On Saturday, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield, in a series of tweets and in an “open letter” to Whitmer released by his office, criticized the governor for not tipping off legislative leaders and security officials about the alleged plot, which she has said officials advised her about a few weeks ago.
Chatfield faced immediate blowback from numerous sources, including former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who said it is up to the FBI and others in law enforcement to determine who should be informed about any active investigation, such as this one involving ongoing surveillance of the alleged conspirators and use of confidential FBI informants.
“Why weren’t we in the Legislature warned of the plot to take hostages at the Capitol?” Chatfield asked in the letter to Whitmer.
“The plot by these terrorists was against us, too. Why weren’t House sergeants warned? You knew, and we weren’t even given a warning. We had people working in the building every day doing essential work, and their lives matter, too.”
McQuade, who was U.S. attorney in Detroit from 2010 to 2017, took to Twitter in response to Chatfield’s comments on social media. “Law and operational security prohibit ?her? from alerting others,” McQuade said of Whitmer. “That’s DOJ’s (the Department of Justice’s) call, not the victim’s.”
Chatfield said he was also alarmed by recent public remarks by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, which echoed similar remarks by Whitmer. Chatfield said Gilchrist “blamed Michigan Republicans for the evil plans of these unstable men.”
The accusation, Chatfield said, “is inflammatory and untrue, and it does nothing to solve this problem. You chose to blame President Trump instead. The truth is, I started getting death threats to my family at my home the day you said my legislative actions would kill people. Please realize that.”
Asked on “Face The Nation” when the nation will know how Michigan voted Nov. 3, Whitmer said she expects Michigan will be able to announce election results “soon after the polls close,” but she would not be more specific.
That appeared to conflict with recent comments from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who has said it could be the Friday of election week before results are known.
Whitmer said she is working closely with both Benson and Nessel to make sure the election is safe and smooth.
“Michigan will be able to announce results, but we’re not going to have artificial deadlines set by people with political agendas,” she said.
Also on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Michigan native and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, who was among a cluster of Trump allies and administration members who recently tested positive for COVID-19, said she believes she is over the novel coronavirus but will continue to isolate for a time “to make extra sure.”
She said she feels well and has been fever-free for more than 10 days.
Despite a CBS poll that shows Biden and Trump now tied, 45% to 45%, on how voters view their ability to handle the economy, McDaniel said Trump “is doing better on the economy” and laws he signed allowing forgivable loans to businesses in response to the pandemic are “what saved this economy.”
©2020 Detroit Free Press