Expert says there are good reasons Republican leadership wasn't informed of plot against Governor
Republican leadership raised concerns over the weekend about the decision to keep them out of the loop about threats against Governor Whitmer and a plot to storm the Capitol.
In an open letter to the governor, Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield accused her of keeping the legislature in the dark.
“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. “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.”
Daryl Johnson, former Senior Analyst of Domestic Terrorism with the Department of Homeland Security said there are good reasons the legislature would not have been informed.
“The more people that know about a pending arrest the greater chance of there being a leak or a compromise in the case,” he said. “Number two, the FBI and state police had these people under surveillance. I’m sure they would not allow them to do anything nefarious while they had them under surveillance like that.”
Johnson said the threat against the governor was likely seen as more serious.
“These people had actually gone out to her house and done some surveillance,” he said. “That’s probably why she was alerted and the others were not.”
If there had been a more urgent threat against legislators, Johnson said they likely would have been informed.
“If there was an imminent threat or a credible threat where a legislator’s life was in danger they would have worked through the capitol police, who would provide a protective detail or security enhancements or what have you,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the decision about whom to inform would have ultimately been made by the investigating agency - meaning state police or the FBI - not the governor.
Michigan State Police and FBI said they could not comment on the matter. A spokesperson for the state police noted that the FBI was the lead agency on the investigations and suggested reaching out to either the US Attorney’s Office or the Office of the Michigan Attorney General for comment.
The Attorney General’s Office, in a written response, said if legislators had truly been worried about safety at the capitol they would have “banned guns there when the Attorney General asked them to months ago.”
“While some just talk about wanting to keep people safe, others go out and do it,” the statement continued. “Thank you to the heroic men and women at the FBI and MSP for their work.”
Johnson said there is also a possibility that legislators were identified as a security risk to the investigation.
Several of the men charged with the kidnapping plot attended protests at the state capitol - those protests have largely been supported by state republicans.
“If these legislators had been doing photo ops or idling alongside these rallies giving speeches than of course they are looked at as a potential supporter,” Johnson said. “Going back to operational security if you have legislators that are supporters than there is a greater chance of a leak or a tip-off to those types of people.”
Despite supporting anti-lockdown protests writ large, Republican leaders have also been critical when protestors got out of hand.
In his letter, Speaker Chatfield balked at a similar implication made by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist about republicans having some complicity in the plot against Whitmer.
In an interview with CNN on Thursday, the Lt. Governor said the men charged in the plot “were emboldened by the complicity and encouragement of the leadership of the Michigan Republican party.”
“That accusation is inflammatory and untrue,” Chatfield wrote. “Blanket, partisan blame is wrong. It simply further divides us and causes further strife.”