But he is demanding credit for stopping it anyway.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump is focused on shoring up support in swing states. Speaking at a rally in Michigan Tuesday, Trump resorted to a familiar strategy: attacking a progressive female lawmaker.
First, Trump said he'd foiled the plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and blasted her for not expressing gratitude.
"Your governor, I don't think she likes me too much," Trump said. "I'm the one, it was our people that helped her out with her problem."
After taking credit for the FBI's work, Trump implied that the plan to abduct the female lawmaker wasn't actually a problem.
"I mean, we'll have to see if it's a problem. Right? People are entitled to say maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn't," he said, before once again claiming credit. "It was our people — my people, our people that helped her out. And then she blamed me for it. She blamed me and it was our people that helped her. I don't get it. How did you put her there?"
Writing in the Atlantic, Whitmer blamed Trump for stoking violence to better his re-election chances.
When I put my hand on the Bible at my inauguration, it did not occur to me that less than two years later, I would have to tell my daughters about a plot against me. But earlier this month, I learned that a multistate terrorist group was planning to kidnap and possibly kill me. Law-enforcement announced charges against 14 people as part of the plot. As jarring as that was, just over a week later, President Donald Trump traveled to Michigan, and when a crowd chanted "Lock her up" after he mentioned me, he said, "Lock them all up."
In an echo of Trump's rhetoric, the plotters allegedly planned to put Whitmer on trial.
Whitmer also observed that Trump and other prominent Republicans have promoted the baseless claim that the governor is a tyrant for instituting safety measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
"Look no further than the president calling me a 'dictator' on Fox News, Mitch McConnell laughing on the debate stage as his Democratic challenger called on him to save lives by passing a COVID-19 relief bill, or Republican legislative leaders right here in Michigan fraternizing with those who stormed the Michigan capitol, long guns in hand," Whitmer wrote.
Whitmer's virus response — unlike Trump's — has been deemed successful by a majority of her constituents.
A total of 60.9% of Michigan voters approve of the job Whitmer is doing in tackling the pandemic. Meanwhile, 54.5% disapprove of how Trump has performed in the crisis.
Whitmer points out that instead of leading a federal response, Trump continues to whip up his followers with attacks on his opponents and violent rhetoric.
"Eight months into the pandemic, he still does not have a plan to protect our frontline workers or rebuild our economy," she writes. "He has only lies, vitriol, and hate. And as we saw earlier this month, his violent rhetoric puts leaders across the country in danger."
The plot to abduct Whitmer is not the only time Trump's incendiary rhetoric has stoked violence. In 2019, the Trump-obsessed Cesar Sayoc sent pipe bombs to Democrats and CNN. In 2017, white supremacists staged a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which they chanted "Jews will not replace us." Counter-protestor Heather Heyer was killed when a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of protestors.
Trump did not ease tensions by saying there were "fine people" on both sides.
In the past, he's denied any responsibility for violent acts seemingly inspired by his words.
"I think my rhetoric brings people together," he said four days after a 21-year-old allegedly killed 22 people in a Wal-mart in El Paso, Texas. He'd allegedly posted an anti-immigrant rant online.
ABC found at least 54 criminal cases directly linked to Trump, including a white man who punched a Latino gas station attendant in Gainesville, Florida, after saying, "This is for Trump."
Law enforcement has also investigated multiple threats and acts of violence against Muslims, refugees, African-Americans, and LGBTQ people. Almost all of the alleged perpetrators were white men, the sole demographic still largely sticking by Trump.
Whitmer was not amused by Trump's comments.
"I don't think it's funny," she said in an interview with CBS News Wednesday. "And anyone who thinks it's funny has a real twisted sense of what humor is."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.