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FBI arrest Michigan men linked to white supremacist group

Federal and state officials on Thursday arrested two men in Michigan who they said belonged to a white supremacist group. The arrests come three weeks after more than a dozen men linked to a separate anti-government group were accused of plotting to kidnap the state governor.

Sherry Workman, a Michigan State Police detective sergeant, said the charges against two members of the Base, a white supremacist neo-Nazi group, stemmed from their efforts to intimidate a podcast host.

Sergeant Workman wrote in an affidavit that the men – Justen Watkins, 25, the self-proclaimed leader of the group, and Alfred Gorman, 35 – posted a photo of Mr. Watkins wearing a skull mask and standing on the porch of what they thought was the podcast host’s home but was actually the home of a husband, wife, and baby. The family notified the police.

The men had hoped to intimidate a “I don’t speak German” crowd, authorities said, which describes itself as a podcast “facing white nationalism.”

Dana Nessel, the state attorney general, accused Mr Watkins and Mr Gorman of illegally posting a message intended to threaten the victims, a crime. She also charged them with two other crimes which stem from the first one and may lead to more severe punishments: committing a felony while in a gang and using a computer to commit a felony. The men did not immediately list lawyers in online court records.

According to Ms Nessel and experts who have studied the Base, which was founded in 2018, the group is urging violence against the government and training its members in a future “race war.” The FBI investigated the neo-Nazi group and arrested several suspected members this year in Georgia and Maryland.

The Michigan arrests come a day after it was revealed that one of the men accused of conspiring to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and storm the State Capitol also wrote on Facebook that he wanted to hang President Trump, Hillary Clinton and other politicians from both main parties, according to the FBI. The threats were reported by an FBI agent in a new filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

The agent wrote that Barry Croft, a Delaware truck driver who was one of more than a dozen men accused this month of conspiring to kidnap Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, had indicated that he wanted to suspend or hold a “popular trial” against a wide range of politicians.

“I’m saying we’re suspending everything that’s governing us right now, they’re all guilty,” Croft wrote in May, according to the FBI.

That month, Mr. Croft also posted a photo of Mr. Trump with the message “True colors shine,” according to the agent.

The revelations were shared in an affidavit from Kristopher M. Long, an FBI agent who last week persuaded a judge to give the agency access to a Facebook account they believed Mr. Croft was running. In the affidavit, Mr. Long said Facebook deleted Mr. Croft’s previous accounts at least twice, but created new ones and continued to send messages to others about the achievement of ‘attacks and publicly publish his desire to see politicians die.

No attorneys are listed for Mr. Croft in court documents, and a lawyer who previously represented him declined to comment.

Mr. Croft also threatened other governors, wrote Mr. Long, including Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, a Republican.

Mr Long noted in the affidavit that a protest against the coronavirus restrictions was planned at this time in South Carolina. Ms Whitmer had also faced large protests against her coronavirus measures.

Another FBI agent told court this month that the men who planned to attack Ms Whitmer also discussed targeting Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia, a Democrat, over his pandemic restrictions.

Michigan, with a strong gun culture and a large rural-urban divide, is seen by some experts as fertile ground for anti-government groups, many of whom see themselves as militias.

Adam Goldman and Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting.

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