Michigan’s governor was kept updated about a plot to abduct her and was moved around as the FBI tracked her would-be kidnappers, the US state’s attorney general has revealed.
On Thursday the FBI said it had thwarted the plot by alleged militiamen who planned to hold a “treason trial” for Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
A total of 13 men have been charged.
Strict measures against coronavirus in Michigan have made Governor Whitmer a target for Covid-19 sceptics.
On Friday Attorney General Dana Nessel told CBS news: “At times, she and her family had been moved around as a result of activities that law enforcement was aware of.”
Ms Nessel said the Democratic governor had been kept updated about the investigation in recent months.
The suspects came close enough to executing their plan that police had to move in “before anybody lost their lives”, she added.
What were they allegedly planning?
According to a sworn FBI affidavit released on Thursday, an undercover source attended a June meeting in Ohio, where a group of Michigan-based militia members discussed overthrowing state governments “that they believed were violating the US Constitution”.
In one video, a suspect denounced the state’s role in deciding when to reopen gyms during the coronavirus lockdown.
The men met in a basement that was accessed by a trapdoor hidden under a rug, investigators said.
Six men – five from Michigan and one from Delaware – are accused in federal court of plotting the kidnap.
These six were named as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Casert and Ty Garbin. Mr Garbin’s residence, in a trailer park, was raided by authorities on Wednesday.
The other seven face charges of terrorism and gang-related offences in state court in connection with the alleged abduction plot.
They are Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison.
The group wished to gather about “200 men” to storm the capitol building and take hostages, including the governor. They hoped to enact their plan before the November presidential election. If that failed, they planned to attack the governor at her home, officials said.
Social media’s Boogaloo problem
It’s been reported that these men have links to a militia group called the Boogaloo Bois. This is a movement that has grown online.
It’s actually quite hard to describe the motives of the group. It’s not “right-wing” in a traditional sense. Members of the movement are vehemently against law enforcement – some have been arrested for killing police officers.
Broadly speaking, they are extremist libertarians – think Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, but with guns.
The term “Boogaloo” is usually a reference to a civil war. They have an entrenched hatred of big government – confusingly they are also often pro-Trump, though not exclusively. Hence why their ire is often focused on state rather than federal government.
Social media took a long time to act on Boogaloo. Facebook removed a number of Boogaloo groups in June – including the group that these men were allegedly part of. I showed TikTok of a series of Boogaloo videos that were on its platform back in July. Even now it’s very easy to find Boogaloo videos on social media – the hashtags they use often change so it’s hard to keep up.
This story shows how important it is to monitor social media platforms for extremist content – before it leads to violence.
What has the governor said?
In a news conference on Thursday, the governor tied the plot against her to the rhetoric of President Donald Trump, who she said had spent months “stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division”.
In April, Mr Trump implied support for the protesters, tweeting “LIBERATE MICHIGAN”. A month later, armed protesters opposed to the lockdown stormed the state capitol.
Michigan’s attorney general confirmed on Thursday that two men photographed at that May protest are among the arrested plot suspects.
On Thursday night, Mr Trump, a Republican, sought to take credit for federal investigators eliminating the alleged threat to the governor.
“Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist – while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities,” he tweeted.
Michigan could prove pivotal in the outcome of next month’s US presidential election.
Joe Biden, the Democratic White House challenger to Mr Trump, condemned militias as “a genuine threat” and said Mr Trump’s “liberate” tweet encouraged militias. “The words of a president matter,” he said, adding: “Why can’t the president just say stop, stop, stop, stop?”
Numerous violent incidents have been linked to citizen militia groups across the US in recent years.
Adherents, who are often white men, sometimes brandish weapons during protests. The Department of Homeland Security warned this week in an annual report that violent white supremacy was the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland”.
Ivory Coast elections: Voters go to the polls amid opposition boycott
Polls are set to open in Ivory Coast’s controversial presidential election.
At least 14 people have been killed since riots broke out in August after President Alassane Ouattara said he would run again following the sudden death of his preferred successor.
The main opposition candidates, Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Henri Konan Bédié, say it is illegal for Mr Ouattara to stand for a third term.
They are boycotting the vote and have called for civil disobedience.
What is it so controversial?
According to the constitution, Ivory Coast has a two-term presidential limit. Mr Ouattara – who has been elected twice – initially said he would stand down.
But, in July, the ruling party’s previous presidential nominee, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack.
Mr Ouattara subsequently announced that he would run for president after all.
His supporters argued that a constitutional change in 2016 reset the clock and that his first term did not count.
His opponents do not share that view, arguing instead that it is illegal for Mr Ouattara to run for a third term.
What’s the background to the tension?
There has been a decades-long quarrel between some of the country’s leading political figures.
In 2010, Laurent Gbagbo, who was president at the time, refused to concede to Mr Ouattara following the election in that year and this sparked a bitter civil war.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the five months of violence.
Mr Gbagbo also put himself forward to stand in this year’s election but the electoral commission blocked him because he had been convicted in the Ivorian courts.
He was one of nearly 40 potential candidates who were turned down by the commission.
Who are the four presidential candidates?
- Alassane Ouattara, 78, an economist. Became president in 2011, serving his second term after years in opposition.
Party: Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP)
- Henri Konan Bédié, 86, career politician. Served as president between 1993 and 1999, deposed in coup. Party: Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PCDI)
- Pascal Affi N’Guessan, 67, career politician. Served as prime minister between 2000 and 2003 under then-President Laurent Gbagbo. Party: Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) faction
- Kouadio Konan Bertin, 51, career politician, known as KKB, was once youth leader in the former ruling Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, is now an MP. Independent candidate
Bugatti unveils a super light hypercar that can top 300 mph
The Bugatti Bolide — a name that comes from French slang for “very fast car,” according to Bugatti — is a concept car designed solely for track driving, not for use on public roads. The Bolide has a modified version of the huge 8.0-liter 16-cylinder engine found in Bugatti’s Chiron, the brand’s core model. It’s built to be super light and can reach a top speed of well over 300 mph, according to Bugatti.
Bugatti hasn’t said whether it will sell the Bolide, but performance brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini offer track-only cars for wealthy customers who want to experience driving in their own private racecars. Cars like this don’t have a lot of the crash safety equipment required in road cars, like airbags, but they do have the specialized safety gear required on many race tracks, such as fittings for racing harnesses.
Designed for optimal aerodynamics, the Bolide is a little over three feet tall, which is about a foot shorter than the Chiron. To get in, occupants must sit on the door sill and put their legs inside before sliding over into the seat.
In designing the Bolide, emphasis was placed on reducing weight and improving aerodynamics. The air scoop that rises from the roof is covered in a special skin that forms blister-like bubbles at high speeds. The bubbles improve air flow over the scoop by 10% while also reducing aerodynamic lift by 17%, according to Bugatti.
All the screws and fasteners in the car are made from titanium, according to Bugatti, and much of the rest of the car is made from lightweight carbon fiber and titanium alloys. The Bolide weighs just over 2,700 pounds, compared to 4,400 pounds for the Chiron. A lot of weight was also saved in the Bolide by giving no consideration to luxury and very little to comfort. The interior is extremely sparse and simple with thin, light racing seats instead of the nicely upholstered seats used in the Chiron.
“All of Bugatti’s expertise has been condensed into the Bugatti Bolide,” said Stefan Ellrott, head of development for Bugatti.
Engineering the Bolide was an opportunity to try new techniques with the aim of reducing weight and increasing performance, he said. For instance, the turbochargers attached to the engine were specially designed to enable more power at high speeds. Bugatti’s already high-performance lubricating systems were redesigned to deal with extraordinarily high cornering forces that can cause oil to move away from where it’s needed.
Should Bugatti ever decide to sell the Bolide, the price tag would certainly be in the multiple millions of dollars, based on the price of Bugatti’s other cars and the cost of similar types of cars from other automakers.
A more practical Bugatti?
Interestingly, engineers and designers at Bugatti had been working on something radically different for the brand: a lower priced and more practical model. But that work has been put on pause due to the pandemic.
“We were looking at a four-seater with a completely different design — not an SUV, not a sedan, something really, really unique in terms of design and creating a new segment,” Cedric Davy, chief operating officer of Bugatti of the Americas, said in a recent interview. “It’s not dead, but for now, nobody is working on it.”
Adding a more practical model to the lineup is something other supercar companies have embarked on as they seek to appeal to more customers and boost profits.
The reason for the temporary halt to development of the four-door model isn’t any sort of financial constraint, a Bugatti spokesperson insisted, but simple uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Developing a new model involves working with and vetting suppliers, creating prototypes and gauging what the market might be after the pandemic is over, all of which is hard to do at this time.
At any rate, Davy said he’s not terribly concerned.
“I’ve been with Bugatti four years and it’s probably the fourth or fifth time that I’ve heard that the company is being sold, so I’m not too worried,” Davy said.
US election 2020: The Asians who are rooting for Trump to win
Donald Trump is not a US president who has courted international support.
Pursing an openly nationalist “America First” policy, he has openly insulted half the world – from calling Europe’s leaders weak to describing Mexicans as rapists, and even dismissing the entire African continent.
But for some in south-east Asia, a shared enemy in China means they are willing to still throw their support behind him.
Hong Kong: ‘Only Trump can hit the Communist Party’
Hong Kong has seen a severe clampdown by Beijing in the wake of massive pro-democracy and anti-China protests. A new security law has been brought in to punish anyone seen as secessionist or undermining Beijing’s rule.
“When Donald Trump got elected four years ago, I thought the US had gone crazy,” Erica Yuen tells the BBC. “I’d always been a supporter of the Democrats. Now though, I support Trump – along with a lot of the Hong Kong protesters.”
The activist and businesswoman says that the priority for Hong Kong is to get a US president who will “hit the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hard – that’s the only thing that Hong Kong protesters hope for”.
These hopes have been fuelled by the US president’s vocal criticisms of China, particularly with regard to Hong Kong.
Under his tenure, Congress has passed a law revoking Hong Kong’s special status, which gave the country preferential economic treatment because they said Hong Kong was no longer “autonomous”. Sanctions were also imposed on Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and 10 other top officials from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Mr Trump’s opponent Joe Biden has also vowed to “punish” China for its actions against Hong Kong, and has famously referred to China’s leader Xi Jinping as a “thug”.
But for Ms Yuen, what makes the difference is that the current administration has been “the first to make up its mind that the CCP is a harm to the world”.
“I don’t know why the Obama and Clinton administrations didn’t realise that. They were too naïve and thought the CCP would chose a democratic path and become a modern society. But that was proven to be not true.”
She is aware that Hong Kong is vulnerable to any economic repercussions of a conflict between Washington and Beijing.
“You can’t harm the CCP without harming Hong Kong,” she says. “But we are ready for any short-term suffering, we are willing to sacrifice.”
While she says a majority of activists – particularly young ones – share her views, opinion polls show that overall, Mr Trump gets quite mixed reviews in the country. In a recent survey, almost half of those polled gave him a “poor” rating, with many saying that Washington’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic had impacted his reputation.
Taiwan: ‘A big brother we can rely on’
Tensions have been on the rise between China and the island of Taiwan. The two were divided during a civil war in the 1940s, but Beijng insists the island will be reclaimed at some point, by force if necessary. Washington says any resolution of their long separation must be done peacefully.
The trade tariffs and sanctions have also impressed some in Taiwan.
“Donald Trump’s attitude is good for us and it’s good to have such an ally. It gives us more confidence in terms of foreign affairs – militarily and trade,” Victor Lin, who works in e-commerce, told the BBC from Taiwan. “We have a big brother we can rely on.”
Mr Trump has certainly extended his outreach toward Taiwan. Over the past few months, the two governments have made major steps towards finalizing a bilateral trade deal.
Such a trade deal with the US would allow Taiwan to move away from its heavy reliance on China, believes Mr Linh – possibly going as far as to “actively invite Taiwan’s big companies to set up factories in the US”.
He worries that Mr Biden may not take steps that are “this provocative” in the face of Beijing’s wrath. Mr Biden has traditionally been known as a supporter of engaging with China. Although he has changed his stance on this more recently, it has not reached the ears of the many Taiwanese who fear a Chinese “invasion” may be imminent.
Mr Trump’s actions to support Taiwan militarily have also bolstered support for him there. In fact, a recent poll showed that Taiwan is the only country where those that want another for years of Mr Trump strongly outnumber those who want Mr Biden to win.
Beijing has reacted strongly, warning the US “not to send any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ elements to avoid severe damage to China-US relations”.
Vietnam: ‘Brave to the point of recklessness’
Both Washington and Beijing have fought wars on Vietnamese soil in the last 50 years, but while the US has largely been forgiven, the south-east Asian country remains fearful of the “China threat”.
Vietnam’s Trump fans into two groups, according to political analyst and vlogger Linh Ngyuen.
Those who like him simply for the entertainment and glamour, and those who are “die hard Trump-supporters” and follow US politics because they believe – like many in Hong Kong and Taiwan – he is the only bulwark against the Communist governments both in China and Vietnam.
Neither Mr Trump or Mr Biden have spelled out a Vietnam strategy, and Mr Trump has made it very clear that he will not rush to intervene in the conflicts and disputes of other countries.
Yet some like political activist Vinh Huu Nguyen believe that only someone like Trump “who is brave to the point of recklessness and even aggression” can actually make a difference.
“And that’s what sets him apart from his predecessors. Dealing with China requires such people.”
When Donald Trump came to power, Mr Nguyen said he felt the world would finally “wake up to the dangers of China” and “its new form of communist state capitalism”.
But then there’s also the desire for economic and political reform within Vietnam, away from communist one-party rule.
Personally, he hopes a strong US stance against the CCP might have a ripple effect across the entire region – eventually reaching Hanoi.
Japan: ‘It’s about our national security’
Japan has long been considered a valuable partner and ally to the US, but when Mr Trump was elected many people were nervous about the impact of his America-first policy on relations. He axed a multilateral trans-Pacific trade deal soon after taking office and insists Japan must pay more money to support US troops stationed there.
“Donald Trump is our ally. For Japan, the biggest reason we support him is national security,” says Yoko Ishii, a YouTuber who vlogs under the name Random Yoko.
She points to the frequent intrusions of Chinese military planes and ships into Japanese airspace and waters. Much of these centre around the disputed Senkaku Islands, claimed both by Tokyo and Beijing – which calls them the Diaoyu Islands.
“We really want a leader from the US that can fight China aggressively,” she says, adding “I don’t think anybody can be that outspoken and have such strong presence – it really has to be Donald Trump”.
Ms Ishii sees Japan in a quasi-alliance with other Asian nations and territories who would look to the US for support against Beijing.
But despite her enthusiastic support for Trump to remain in the White House, vocal supporters like her are in a minority in Japan. While in general, a positive view on the US is shared by a majority, only a quarter of Japanese have confidence in President Trump.
Unlike some of their Asian neighbours, many hope Mr Biden, who is seen as someone who will engage with his allies in a way that Mr Trump did not, will re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership process and engage more closely with Tokyo, both economically and militarily.
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