Attorney General Barr stays in background after Michigan arrests
Posted October 9, 2020 6:20 p.m. EDT
CNN — The arrest of 13 men who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is the latest in a string of right-wing alleged violent threats at a time Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump have sought to highlight alleged left-wing violence.
The FBI and the Michigan US attorneys announced charges against six of the men for conspiracy to kidnap, and seven other people, associated with a group called "Wolverine Watchmen," are facing state charges.
But while Barr was briefed this week on the Whitmer plot, the attorney general has yet to comment publicly on the arrests.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told CNN that Barr was briefed and said Barr condemns the abhorrent behavior alleged and he fully supports the FBI investigation and the work of the US attorney to bring these charges.
The attorney general typically weighs in on high-profile cases, however, often with quotes in Justice Department press releases on charges. The announcement of the charges didn't include any comment from Barr.
During an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett on Thursday evening, Whitmer questioned whether Barr was aware of the planned hit that his agencies were investigating aggressively since at least June.
"If he didn't (know), he's incompetent," Whitmer said.
In recent months, since the police killing of George Floyd, Barr and Trump have railed against a wave of what they said was leftist violence, largely aimed at police shootings against Blacks and other minorities. They have particularly taken aim at people alleged to be associated with the antifa ideology, as well as anarchists and people associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Justice Department has announced more than 300 arrests in unrest in cities around the country, some for misdemeanors such as throwing rocks at police. Among those arrests, and not highlighted by Barr, are several against right wing activists , including some associated with the Boogaloo movement, for allegedly serious violence plots against police and against racial justice protesters.
The Michigan plot would be the latest in a string of serious right-wing violent threats or events that Barr has been noticeably more circumspect about, a suspect in the shooting deaths of two officers in California and the arrest of three Las Vegas residents who are alleged members of the "Boogaloo" movement, while he uses highly torqued rhetoric about antifa and alleged left wing violence.
Last month, Barr demanded that federal and state prosecutors vigorously charge riot-related defendants with the rarely-used sedation law, that would make it a crime to conspire to overthrow the government. None of the defendants in Thursday's operation were charged with sedition.
Among other things, a federal criminal complaint says the alleged scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects "believe are violating the US Constitution," including the government of Michigan and Whitmer.
Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel took aim at Barr after the charges were announced.
Whitmer has said the "attempted act of domestic terrorism against a sitting governor has no place in a lawful and civil society and we condemn it in the strongest terms."