Chatfield blames Whitmer for partisanship in wake of terrorist plot against her

By: - October 12, 2020 1:56 pm

House Speaker Lee Chatfield at the State of the State address, Jan. 29, 2020 | Andrew Roth

In an open letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Saturday, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) blamed Whitmer for “partisan rhetoric” against state Republicans and President Donald Trump after a plot to kidnap and kill Whitmer was quashed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

“Hatred and violence are wrong, and that’s why I’ve continually denounced it,” Chatfield wrote. “And I agree, it’s time to tone down the partisan rhetoric and turn ‘the heat down’ as you’ve said. Will you do the same for President Trump? You’ve arguably been his biggest critic this year in the country.”

On Thursday, federal and state authorities announced that 13 men have been charged for what officials categorize as “extremist” plans to target Whitmer and to attempt to overthrow the state government. 

Six militia members were charged on multiple counts for alleged acts of terrorism by federal officials and state Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office charged seven more men under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Act. 

Chatfield was also critical of Whitmer for not alerting the House and Senate leadership of the ongoing investigations, which she has said she has known about for months. 

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Why weren’t we in the Legislature warned of the plot to take hostages at the Capitol? The plot by these terrorists was against us, too,” Chatfield wrote. “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.”

Barb McQuade, a former U.S. attorney and current University of Michigan law professor, tweeted Saturday that Whitmer would have been prohibited by law and operational security officials from alerting others, adding that it would have been the responsibility of the Department of Justice.

House Democrats have raised concerns to Republican leaders about being privy to safety protocols in the spring when armed protesters stormed the Capitol building during session. 

Democratic House members said that they were not made aware of police security available to them, but their Republican colleagues were able to be escorted by the Michigan State Police (MSP) for an April 30 session that coincided with a right-wing rally against Whitmer’s COVID-19 emergency actions at the Capitol. 

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Whitmer said on “CBS Sunday” that she is still concerned about extremism and threats ahead of the general election next month.

I do believe that there are still serious threats that groups like this group, these domestic terrorists, are finding comfort and support in the rhetoric coming out of Republican leadership from the White House to our state House,” she said. 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said on CNN Friday that Republican leaders “legitimize these groups” and “support them with their rhetoric.”

Chatfield wrote that Gilchrist’s comments were “inflammatory and untrue.”

Will the Lieutenant Governor turn it down with the entire Republican Party, millions of whom are his constituents? This wasn’t standing tall. It was cheap,” he wrote. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.