An FBI agent testified in court Tuesday that members of anti-government militant groups discussed kidnapping Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam in a meeting four months ago.
Special Agent Richard Trask, who was part of an investigation that resulted in six men being charged last week of planning to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, said they discussed Northam during a June meeting in Ohio.
Trask did not mention Northam’s name during the hearing in a federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but he said anti-government group members from several states attended the meeting during which members voiced dissatisfaction with the governors’ management of the coronavirus pandemic.
“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders," Trask said.
An unnamed Virginia state official with knowledge of Northam’s briefings said the FBI did not brief him on any potential threat.
The June meeting was the subject of an FBI probe into a number of anti-government groups that led to last week’s arrest of six men for allegedly planning to kidnap Whitmer and the placement of state terrorism charges against seven other men.
Trask testified at a hearing to review evidence against Michigan residents Brandon Caserta, Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Daniel Harris and Kaleb Franks and whether they should be detained before trial.
The sixth suspect, Barry Croft, has been detained in Delaware. Democratic Governor John Carney pardoned Croft last year of charges that included possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and assault and burglary.
A criminal complaint says some of the defendants surveilled Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan in August and September.
Authorities said the suspects, who face life in prison if convicted, were attempting to retaliate against Whitmer because of the “uncontrolled power” she has wielded during the pandemic. They said four of the men intended to meet last week to arrange payment for explosives and to swap tactical gear.
Whitmer has been widely lauded for her handling of the outbreak, which included measures that have since been lifted to restrict personal movement.
But she has also been the target of sharp criticism from Republican legislators and residents in conservative strongholds in Michigan.
The Michigan Capitol has been home to many rallies in recent months, including those with armed protesters calling for Whitmer’s ouster.