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Michigan state attorney says other groups planning terrorism, more arrests expected

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel holds a press conference at M-Brew in Ferndale Monday, March, 16, 2020. Nessel said more groups are planning acts of domestic terrorism and recruiting members. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

State Attorney General Dana Nessel said groups and individuals inside and outside Michigan were planning acts of domestic terrorism and using the unrest surrounding COVID-19 and police brutality protests to recruit more members.

In a spate of national television interviews Thursday and Friday, Nessel said she expected more arrests would be made but said it was unlikely those individuals are linked to the specific group at issue in the kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

She noted her department’s investigations involve right-wing groups, but no antifa or left-wing groups.

“There remains a number of individuals, a number of groups that are out there and that continue to plan attacks of domestic terrorism, not just in Michigan but in a multi-jurisdictional fashion across many states,” Nessel told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday.

“This is not just a Michigan problem. This is now an American problem.”

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The governor has been kept informed of the potential threat for a couple months, Nessel said, and authorities at times moved Whitmer and her family as a result of activities investigators learned of.

Investigators moved Wednesday night to arrest the 13 people accused of plotting to storm the Michigan Capitol, target law enforcement and kidnap Whitmer as at least six of the suspects moved to make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear in Hartland, according to an FBI affidavit.

“We thought the trainings had gone on long enough and, as I like to say, I would rather have the weakest conspiracy case rather than the strongest homicide,” Nessel told CBS This Morning Friday while arguing the case was anything but weak. “And we were very concerned that it was moving toward action.”

Nessel criticized President Donald Trump for sympathizing with protesters at rallies against stay-home orders early on in the pandemic, when he encouraged Whitmer to meet with some of the armed protesters and tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

“When they say these things, people not only listen, they respond,” Nessel told CBS This Morning. “It’s not just a dog whistle, but a rallying cry.”

The Plymouth Democrat also noted state Republican lawmakers had been present at some of the protests where the suspects also participated and met to discuss plans. She said lawmakers’ presence at the events was “stunning,” especially given the anti-law enforcement stance of some of the suspects who were at the events.

Michigan Republican legislators attended some of the protests to support opposition to the Whitmer’s COVID-19 orders, which they sued to overturn. In an advisory decision requested by a Grand Rapids federal judge, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled she violated a 1976 law by not getting legislative approval for her emergency power actions after April 30 and decided 4-3 she used an unconstitutional law that improperly gave legislative power to the governor’s office.

Nessel noted that U.S. Attorney William Barr testified in late July before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that he wasn’t aware that protesters had made violent threats against the governor.

“Yet, his own authorities were actively working to foil these types of plans and these threats,” Nessel told CNN New Day. “Either A) he didn’t know what was happening in his own justice department or B) he committed perjury.”

A Barr spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Still, Nessel noted the investigation and arrests in the kidnapping plot were a partnership between a Democratic state attorney general and Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys.

“There are those of us in law enforcement that are still willing to hold bad actors accountable,” she said.

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© 2020 The Detroit News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.