Posts

Yet Another Warning from Michigan: FBI Busted Plot to Kidnap “That Woman”

As you’ve probably heard by now, the FBI foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The conspirators intended to move her across state lines to Wisconsin where she would be tried by a kangaroo court for “treason.”

Timing of the plot and events which may have inspired this idiocy:

10-MAR-2020 — Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-4, declaring a state of emergency in Michigan to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

13-MAR-2020 — Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-5 canceling all events and assemblies over 250 people, ending on Sunday, April 5 at 5 p.m. Michigan’s public schools and churches were closed with this order.

16-MAR-2020 — Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-9, closing places of public accommodation including restaurants, bars, gymnasiums, theaters through March 30.

20-MAR-2020 — Militia group in Michigan brought to attention of FBI when group sought addresses of local law enforcement. A Confidential Human Sources (CHS) was identified during FBI interview with a concerned militia member.

23-MAR-2020 — Gov. Whitmer issued “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order 2020-21, directing all Michigan businesses and operations to temporarily suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life, effective immediately.

27-MAR-2020 — During a press conference discussing Pence’s work as head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Trump tells VP Pence, “Don’t call the woman in Michigan.”

01-APR-2020 — Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-33 expanding Executive Order 2020-4, declaring both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across the state of Michigan.

07-APR-2020 — Michigan legislature adopted a concurrent resolution to extend the states of emergency and disaster declared under the Emergency Management Act until April 30, 2020.

09-APR-2020 — First extension of Stay-Home order until May 1 due to rising COVID cases.

15-APR-2020 — Drive-in “Operation Gridlock” Protest in capital city Lansing, violating Stay-Home order; organizer received financial assistance from DeVos family.

17-APR-2020 — Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!

24-APR-2020 — Second extension of Stay-Home order until May 15 due to increased COVID cases. Some restrictions were lifted on outdoor businesses. Masks ordered for all residents in public spaces.

30-APR-2020 — Armed protest in state capitol building

06-MAY-2020 — GOP-majority state house and state senate file suit against Gov. Whitmer (Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate v. Whitmer)

08-MAY-2020 — Third extension of Stay-Home order until May 28. Some restrictions lifted on manufacturing as of 11-MAY-2020 as part of a phased re-opening.

21-MAY-2020 — Michigan Court of Claims ruled in favor of Gov. Whitmer in Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate v. Whitmer; the state of emergency would continue without legislative approval.

22-MAY-2020 — Fourth extension of Stay-Home order until June 12. State of emergency also extended to June 19. Two northern Michigan regions were able to reopen, allowing restaurants and bars to operate at 50% capacity. Groups of 10 were permitted across the state.

01-JUN-2020 — Stay-Home order lifted with restrictions, ex. groups of 100 outdoors, outdoor fitness classes, etc.

06-JUN-2020 — Meeting of ~15 co-conspirators in Dublin, Ohio.

08-JUN-2020 — Restaurants allowed to reopen and operate across the state at 50% capacity with other mandatory changes like masks and social distancing.

08-JUN-2020 — On reopening, Harper’s brewpub restaurant in East Lansing, Michigan, violated several of the remaining emergency restrictions. Over the next month at least 185 cases of COVID will have been traced back to this facility’s reopening.

14-JUN-2020 — A key co-conspirator and a militia group member meet at a militia field training exercise.

15-JUN-2020 — Stay-Home order ends. Some restrictions remain on events and assemblies as well as public accommodation facilities.

18-JUN-2020 — Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-127, again finding that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a disaster and emergency throughout the State of Michigan.

18-JUN-2020 — Co-conspirators met with militia group leadership at the Second Amendment rally at the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan.

20-JUN-2020 — Several co-conspirators met at a co-conspirator’s business in Grand Rapids for planning.

25-JUN-2020 — Key co-conspirator streams a rant about Gov. Whitmer to a private Facebook group.

28-JUN-2020 — Several co-conspirators met in Munith, Michigan for a tactical training
exercise.

04-06-JUL-2020 — Holiday weekend partying results in uptick of COVID cases.

10-12-JUL-2020 — Co-conspirators attended a field training exercise in Cambria, Wisconsin which included attempting to make IEDs with balloons, BBs, and black powder.

13-JUL-2020 — Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-147, mandating the wearing of masks to contain spread of COVID-19.

18-JUL-2020 — Co-conspirators met in Ohio, discussed attacking Michigan State Police and shooting up Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home in western lower Michigan.

27-JUL-2020 — Co-conspirators discussed plan to kidnap Gov. Whitmer at vacation home, transport her to Wisconsin, and prosecute her.

09-AUG-2020 — Co-conspirators discussed obtaining intelligence about Gov. Whitmer’s Lansing home as well as attacking her at that site.

18-AUG-2020 — Co-conspirators discussed surveillance of Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home and getaway plans.

23-AUG-2020 — Co-conspirators discussed surveillance while meeting in Lake Orion, Michigan.

29-AUG-2020 — Co-conspirator and CH-2 surveil Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home.

30-AUG-2020 — Co-conspirators discuss findings of surveillance.

12-13-SEP-2020 — Co-conspirators meet in Luther, Michigan for field training exercise and practice making and using IEDs as well as tighten planning and coordination.

14-SEP-2020 — Co-conspirators discuss executing plan in late October, well before Election Day.

30-SEP-2020 — Co-conspirators discuss acquiring taser for plan.

02-OCT-2020 — Key co-conspirator confirms acquisition of taser.

06-OCT-2020 — In a 4-3 ruling along partisan lines, Michigan Supreme Court determined Gov. Whitmer did not have the authority to issue COVID-related executive orders after April 30, 2020.

07-OCT-2020 — Co-conspirators planned to meet to make payments on equipment.

07-OCT-2020 — Co-conspirator Garbin’s house was raided.

09-OCT-2020 — Arrest of ‘Wolverine Watchmen’ conspirators announced, complaint published.

I use word inspired loosely, because there doesn’t seem to be a direct link between the most aggressive emergency action and the inception and progress of this seditious terror plot. The emergency Stay-Home order was lifted the week the conspirators began planning; what restrictions remained clearly did not stop these men from traveling, meeting, organizing, and planning.

They also didn’t have a legitimate beef about the effectiveness of the governor’s actions, any more so than the polarized and irrational MIGOP-controlled state legislature. Eleventh largest by population, Michigan was hit hard early in the pandemic, now ranking 10th in overall COVID-19 deaths. But since Whitmer declared the state of emergency and enacted the Stay-Home order along with a phased reopening process, the state’s daily death toll has plummeted and its cases per million is now 40th in the country.

You’ll recall from posts I wrote about the protests opposing Whitmer’s orders back in April that the protests cause spikes in active confirmed cases beginning 5-10 days after the protests. They’re visible here in these charts.

The plot wasn’t about Whitmer’s handling of COVID-19.

One only needs to look and listen to the language the conspirators used about Gov. Whitmer to know that this was about hate for a woman with the authority to give orders with regard to a deadly pandemic.

Tyranny to this baker’s dozen of white men was about a democratically-elected woman in a position of legitimate authority telling them what to do.

Trump set the tone for this by refusing to help Whitmer when she asked for federal assistance, by refusing to allow Pence as COVID-19 Task Force chair to listen to Whitmer, and by tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” after the first protest against Whitmer’s orders.

His tweets yesterday attacking Whitmer again even after the arrests of kidnapping conspirators only reinforce the real intent of Trump and seditious domestic terrorists alike.

What will Trump’s tweets spawn next as we head into a second wave of COVID-19, this time with Michigan’s governor disempowered by Republicans on the state supreme court?

When Billy Barr Called a Press Conference to Target Non-Terrorists Rather than Brag about the Right Wing Terrorists FBI Caught

What if the FBI succeeded in thwarting a right wing terrorist attack but rather than bragging about that success, instead redoubled its efforts to target peaceful protestors as terrorists?

That’s what happened this week.

On Tuesday, the FBI terrorism agents arrested three adherents of the “Boogaloo” movement, a group of extremists planning a civil war. All have military experience and one, Andrew Lynam, is currently in the Army Reserve. At a ReOpen Nevada protest held in April, at which they were all heavily armed, Lynam told a person who’d go on to become an FBI informant that, “their group was not for joking around and that it was for people who wanted to violently overthrow the United States government.” One of them planned to use the cover of the George Floyd protests to conduct attacks and sow panic.

CHS stated that PARSHALL and LOOMIS’s idea behind the explosion [targeting Lake Mead] was to hopefully create civil unrest and rioting throughout Las Vegas. They wanted to use the momentum of the George Floyd death in police custody in the City of Minneapolis to hopefully stir enough confusion and excitement, that others see the two explosions and police presence and begin to riot in the streets out of anger.

They were arrested on the way to a Black Lives Matter protest with the makings of Molotov cocktails and an AR-15 in their vehicles.

Normally when the FBI thwarts a terrorism attack in process, they hold a big press conference to brag about it. As of this morning, however, neither DOJ nor FBI have posted the arrest on their national news websites (the Nevada US Attorney’s Office has).

Instead of boasting about the plotters arrested as terrorists, yesterday Billy Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Acting DEA Administrator (and Barr flunky) Timothy Shea, and the head of ATF had a press conference that seemed designed to provide post hoc and advance justification for abusive steps Barr has and plans to authorize. (The Daily Beast also remarked on their silence about the Boogaloo arrests, and noted that that was one of the only arrests of ideologically motivated groups that have taken place during the uprising.)

The specifics of their statements, given the legal framework around national security investigations and known and presumptive OLC memos authorizing such things, deserves more attention.

The culprit is Antifa, not (also) the right-wingers carrying guns

In questions, for example, Pierre Thomas asked Bill Barr about the Boogaloo bust. Barr responded by focusing on Antifa.

And that’s why in my prepared statement, I specifically said, in addition to Antifa and other extremist groups like Antifa, there were a variety of groups and people of a variety of ideological persuasion. So I did make that point. I’m not going to get too specific, but the intelligence being collected by our US attorney’s office is particularly integrated by the FBI from multiple different sources is building up. There are some specific cases against individuals, some Antifa related.

Chris Wray also responded to the question about Boogaloo by emphasizing that Antifa was a terrorist organization.

Sure. Let me say first, as I’ve said for quite some time and including even my first few months in job, we, the FBI have quite a number of ongoing investigations of violent anarchist extremists, including those motivated by an Antifa or Antifa like ideology. And we categorize and treat those as domestic terrorism investigations and are actively pursuing them through our joint terrorism task forces.

This repeats comments both Wray and Barr made in their prepared speeches. Barr saidhe culprit here is “Antifa” and it is violent.

At some demonstrations, there are groups that exploit the opportunity to engage in looting.  And finally, at some demonstration, there are extremist agitators who are hijacking the protests to pursue their own separate and violent agenda.

We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.

Wray said the same. The culprits are “Antifa” and other agitators.

We’re seeing people who are exploiting this situation to pursue violent, extremist agendas—anarchists like Antifa and other agitators. These individuals have set out to sow discord and upheaval, rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice. And by driving us apart, they are undermining the urgent work and constructive engagement of all those who are trying to bring us together—our community and religious leaders, our elected officials, law enforcement, and citizens alike.

There is a foreign nexus that will allow us to use transnational tools

In his prepared speech, Barr claimed that there are foreign actors involved.

We are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.

It’s true that the Russians who helped Trump get elected are sowing dissension but that would be dealt separately from a press conference if Barr weren’t trying to use the foreign nexus to access national security tools he says can’t be used with Trump supporters.

Barr returned to this later, and specifically said they maybe can’t offer proof.

I may ask Chris if he cares to provide a little more detail. I’m not sure how much detail we want to get into, but people shouldn’t think that countries that are hostile to the United States, that their efforts to influence the US or weaken the US or sow discord in the US is something that comes and goes with the election cycle. It is constant. And they are constantly trying to sow discord among our people, and there’s a lot of disinformation that circulates that way. And I believe that we have evidence that some of the foreign hackers and groups that are associated with foreign governments are focusing in on this particular situation we have here and trying to exacerbate it in every way they can. Unless Chris has something to add, I can turn it over to … Yeah.

By suggesting there’s a foreign nexus, Barr is laying the groundwork to claim to need tools only available with that foreign nexus (something that has been done with past protest movements).

Every store that gets raided gives federal jurisdiction

After making it clear that Billy Barr intends to target Antifa as the culprit here, and use national security tools to do so, Barr and his flunkies then laid out how they think they have national jurisdiction.

Barr asserted his own jurisdiction based off the federal buildings he said that had been targeted (and because protestors were in front of the White House).

Many of the buildings, as you know, and facilities here, and the monuments are the responsibility of the federal government and the proceedings and process of the federal government take place here. And so when you have a large scale civil disturbance that is damaging federal property, threatening federal property, threatening federal law enforcement officers, threatening the officials in government and their offices and our great monuments, it is the responsibility of the federal government to render that protection.

Barr described how that Federal jurisdiction — and his invocation of the word “riot” — allows them to lead the response via what is the intelligence-driven network used against terrorists.

The Justice Department is also working closely with our state and local partners to address violent riots around the country.  Our federal law enforcement efforts are focused on the violent instigators.

Through the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, component field offices, and state and local law enforcement, we are receiving real-time intelligence, and we have deployed resources to quell outbreaks of violence in several places.

While Wray didn’t use the word “riot” he described the centrality of the Joint Terrorism Task Force to the Federal response.

We’re making sure that we’re tightly lashed up with our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners across the country, by standing up 24-hour command posts in all of our 56 field offices. We have directed our 200 Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country to assist local law enforcement with apprehending and charging violent agitators who are hijacking peaceful protests.

Timothy Shea invented an excuse not used in his request to get involved: the DEA has jurisdiction because some people stole controlled substances from pharmacies, possibly after they had been looted.

In addition, DEA continues to investigate drug related crimes, including the theft of controlled substances from looted pharmacies, which is happening here in the District of Columbia and across the country. In the national capital region, approximately or over 150 DEA special agents have partnered with the metropolitan police department at their request and the National Guard to enforce security posts and maintain a secure perimeter in designated areas.

Acting ATF Director Regina Lombardo made a similar claim to jurisdiction (though theirs legitimately extends to explosives activity): ATF is investigating firearm dealer thefts.

 ATF has also responded to 73 federal firearms licensed dealers. We have identified many suspects that made arrest and recovered many firearms already.

When it came to Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal, the only real excuse he offered was that Billy Barr requested BOP get involved. Though he did offer the bogus claim that BOP’s riot team is “experienced in … conflict resolution.”

The Attorney General asked the BOP to request and assist other law enforcement agencies in maintaining order and peace in the district of Columbia. BOP crisis management teams are highly trained to deal with various types of emergency situations, including crowd control and civil disturbances. They are experienced in confrontational avoidance and conflict resolution.

Barr offered even more transparently bullshit excuses for inviting in the kinds of people who put down riots among violent felons, claiming that there weren’t enough Marshals to go around, and that no one else in the US Government (like Park Police) know how to deal with the kinds of crowds they deal with all the time. Barr also provided a totally bullshit excuse for why the riot teams weren’t wearing identification.

Let me just add that the Bureau of Prisons SORT teams are used frequently for emergency response and emergency situations, in either civil disturbances or hurricanes or other things like that. They’re highly trained. They’re highly trained units. And in fact, in the Department of Justice, we do not really have large numbers of units that are trained to deal with civil disturbances. I know a lot of people may be looking back on history, think we can call on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of US Marshals, and that’s simply not the case. Our marshals’ response for us is approximately a hundred US Marshals. And so, historically when there have been emergencies where we have to respond with people who do have experience in these kinds of emergencies that are highly trained people, we use what are called SORT teams, response teams from the Bureau of Prisons.

And I could see a number … Now, in the federal system, we don’t wear badges with our name. I mean, the agents don’t wear badges and their names and stuff like that, which many civilian police agents, I mean, non-federal police agencies, do. And I could understand why some of these individuals simply wouldn’t want to talk to people about who they are, if that were, if that in fact was the case.

The photo op was not a photo op

But Barr’s bullshit explanation for why he sicced riot teams on peaceful protestors was still more credible than the excuse he offered for violently attacking peaceful protestors, including priests at a church serving them, for a photo op. He had decided (using the jurisdiction assumed by claiming everything is a federal building) to expand the perimeter around the White House.

Unfortunately, because of the difficulty in getting appropriate units into place, by the time they were able to move our perimeter up to I street, a large number of protestors had assembled on H Street. There were projectiles being thrown and the group was becoming increasingly unruly. And the operation to what… They were asked to three times if they would move back one block, they refused. And we proceeded to move our perimeter out to I Street.

And that had nothing at all whatsoever with the President’s desire for a photo op and he just happened to be in the photo op that had nothing to do with the violent attack on peaceful protestors and the exploitation of a house of worship.

Obviously, my interest was to carry out the law enforcement functions of the federal government and to protect federal facilities and federal personnel, and also to address the rioting that was interfering with the government’s function. And that was what we were doing. I think the president is the head of the executive branch and the chief executive of the nation, and should be able to walk outside the White House and walk across the street to the church of presidents. I don’t necessarily view that as a political act. I think it was entirely-I don’t necessarily view that as a political act. I think it was entirely appropriate for him to do. I did not know that he was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well underway to move the perimeter, so there was no correlation between our tactical plan of moving the perimeter out by one block and the president’s going over to the church. The president asked members of his cabinet to go over there with him, the two that were present, and I think it was appropriate for us to go over with him.

Let me be clear. These are — most of them — transparently bullshit excuses. Unfortunately, the way our intersecting justifications for using national security authorities work, such transparently bullshit excuses provide the legal cover that the Federal government has long used, especially when it comes to spying on brown people.

To be clear, this is not new. It’s just incredibly ham-handed and pretty transparently done after the fact, after the press already identified Barr’s abuses. And I assume OLC only now is writing memos to match the transparently bogus claims made in yesterday’s presser.