Special Agent Richard Trask testified in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during a pre-trial hearing of six men, facing federal charges in an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer.
Trask described a June 6 meeting in Dublin, Ohio, when anti-government groups from multiple states aired their grievances against Whitmer and Northam for locking down businesses in their bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders,” Trask told the court, without naming Northam specifically.
Trask said there were about 15 people at this meeting, including two suspects in the Whitmer plot, Adam Fox and Barry Croft.
Tuesday’s hearing reviewed the government’s evidence against suspects Fox, Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. Croft is in custody in Delaware and the other five are being held in Michigan.
It wasn’t immediately clear if alleged plans to attack Virginia’s governor ever developed further or if there’d be charges brought in regard to Northam.
Lawyers for the accused might have offered a preview of defense strategies, suggesting that the defendants had limited means or actual intent to carry out the threats they’re accused of making.
“You find a lot of people who talk about things, but they’re never a threat to do anything. It’s fairly common in these groups?” Scott Graham, a defense lawyer for Franks, asked Trask.
“Big talk between crackpots — you’ve seen that, haven’t you? People who talk a lot, brashly, boldly, but are never going to do anything about that talk.”
Northam on Tuesday said he and his staff were told about on-going threats, but he didn’t elaborate.
“I will not work under intimidation, that’s not who I am,” Northam told reporters in Richmond.
Northam drew a direct line between the accused plotters and President Donald Trump, who urged governors in April — at the pandemic’s deadly height — to end lockdown measures aimed at curbing the virus.
“And I realize, I’ve been in this long enough (to know) that not everything we do is agreeable to all Virginians,” Northam said.
“But when language is used, such as to ‘liberate Virginia,’ they find meaning in those words and thus these things happen and that’s regrettable.”
Whitmer appeared remotely on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday and also decried over-the-top rhetoric.
“Fortunately, they foiled the plot, but it’s very clear from the affidavits that it wasn’t simply to kidnap, it was to put me on a trial of some sort and then possibly execute me,” she told the popular talk show.
“That’s the kind of thing that you would expect to hear from a group like ISIS. And that’s why when people refer to these groups casually as militias, we have to call it for what it is and we have to call out domestic terrorism.”
The Associated Press contributed.