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Photo: Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Six men have been charged in an alleged plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed Thursday. Seven other men linked to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen were charged by Michigan's attorney general for plotting to attack the state Capitol building.

Driving the news: Whitmer responded to the thwarted operation in an address on Thursday, calling for national unity and criticizing President Trump for his failure at the first presidential debate to explicitly condemn extremist groups. Hate groups heard Trump's comments "not as a rebuke, but as rallying cry, as a call to action," Whitmer said.

The big picture: Whitmer has been heavily criticized by some right-wing groups for implementing strict coronavirus restrictions. In April, hundreds of protesters, including armed members of local militias, stormed the Michigan Capitol in protest of Whitmer's stay-at-home order.

  • President Trump faced criticism for encouraging the protests and calling on Whitmer to "give a little," tweeting at one point: "LIBERATE MICHIGAN."
  • Violence by militia groups has become a growing concern in the past months. The details of the alleged plot revealed on Thursday shed more light on how people with extremist ideologies are organizing themselves.

The men charged were named as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta.

Details: The FBI started tracking the conspiracy in early 2020 via social media channels through which individuals were plotting the violent overthrow of state governments and law enforcement. The FBI had an inside source at a meeting held in June.

  • “The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the source stated. “They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions."
  • "At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer." Members of the group reached out to a Michigan-based militia group as part of a recruitment effort.
  • The FBI was already tracking the militia in March because members were trying to acquire the addresses of local law enforcement officers, the FBI agent wrote.
  • Reports out earlier this year suggested that militia groups had been posting threats about Gov. Whitmer in private Facebook groups.

In response to the news, a Facebook said, “We remove content, disable accounts and immediately report to law enforcement when there is a credible threat of imminent harm to people or public safety. We proactively reached out and cooperated with the FBI early in this ongoing investigation."

In August and September, members of the group staked out Whitmer's vacation home and discussed kidnapping or killing her.

  • During the surveillance operation, Fox commented, “She fucking goddamn loves the power she has right now” and that “she has no checks and balances at all. She has uncontrolled power right now.”
  • Croft stated, “All good things must come to an end,” to which Fox responded: “I can see several states takin’ their fuckin’ tyrants. Everybody takes their tyrants.”

The state of play: In recent weeks, the Michigan governor's residence received security upgrades, including a new perimeter fence.

  • "As a matter of practice, we’re constantly reviewing security protocols and adjusting as needed," said Shanon Banner, spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police.
  • "We don’t comment on specific threats against the governor nor do we provide information about security measures."

Read the criminal complaint.

Go deeper

Report: FBI warned of "war" at Capitol ahead of pro-Trump attack

National guard outside the Capitol. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

An internal memo by an FBI office in Virginia warned of violence and "war" at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the Washington Post reports, raising further questions about failures to secure the Capitol from pro-Trump rioters.

Why it matters: The report goes against a statement from the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Steven D’Antuono, on Friday claiming there was "no indication" of any planned attacks that day, the Post says.

Updated Jan 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

2 Virginia police officers charged over Capitol riots

A photo included in the criminal complaint released by authorities shows two men identified as the off-duty Virginia police officers gesturing in front of a statue in the Capitol. Photo: Department of Justice

Two off-duty Rocky Mount Police, Virginia, police officers have been charged over last week's deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The big picture: Dozens of people have been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in the riot by supporters of President Trump. Over 160 case files have been opened, said Michael Sherwin, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Tuesday.

Big European soccer teams announce breakaway league

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) after striking the ball during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Liverpool F.C. and Real Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, England, last Wednesday. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

12 of world soccer's biggest and richest clubs announced Sunday they've formed a breakaway European "Super League" — with clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona Real Madrid, Juventus and A.C. Milan among those to sign up.

Why it matters: The prime ministers of the U.K. and Italy are among those to express concern at the move — which marks a massive overhaul of the sport's structure and finances, and it effectively ends the decades-old UEFA Champions League's run as the top tournament for European soccer.