President Donald Trump has come under fire from critics who say he helped inspire an alleged plan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but at least one of the accused plotters thinks Trump is “a tyrant,” according to a viral video.
Whitmer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are among those who argue Trump is in part to blame for the alleged kidnapping plot because they said he didn’t do enough to condemn white supremacists.
But a video circulating online shows accused plotter Brandon Caserta in front of an anarchist flag railing against Trump.
Caserta, 32, of Canton Township appears in other videos complaining about the government and posted inflammatory messages on Facebook, including one in which he asks whether it’s all right to “initiate violence” against non-violent people.
In a viral video being shared by conservative music producer Robby Starbuck, Caserta says, “Trump is not your friend, dude. It amazes me that people actually, like, believe that when he’s shown over and over and over again that he’s a tyrant. Every single person that works for government is your enemy, dude.”
When asked about the video, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said in an email: “As you know, this is an ongoing investigation, so I’m not going to speculate or comment on the investigation.”
Brown added: “The governor said the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups. When our leaders speak, their words matter.”
Trump has condemned bigotry and white supremacy, including in August 2019 after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. He said the El Paso shooter’s manifesto was “consumed by racist hate.”
“In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” he said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
Critics including Whitmer argued that Trump equivocated during his Sept. 29 debate with Democratic presidential Joe Biden when moderator Chris Wallace asked him whether he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups. The president said “sure” in answer to Wallace and then added after the moderator finished his question: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Nessel’s office did not return an email Friday seeking comment.
According to federal authorities, Caserta, who is one of 13 men accused of the plan to kidnap Whitmer, is part of the Wolverine Watchmen anti-government militia group.
Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said he’d never heard of the Wolverine Watchmen but said militias and other anti-government organizations attract people from all political persuasions.
“Especially with groups like the Boogaloo Boys, which are primarily anti-government, you can get both white supremacists and left-leaning anarchists in the same group,” Lewis said. “They can attract and put out narratives that appeal to both left- and right-leaning people who don’t like the government.”
Caserta posted several videos on TikTok, including one in which he is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, the clothing worn by members of the Boogaloo movement. In the videos, he talks about fighting “oppression” and tells viewers to “wake up.”
He also had several Facebook posts, since removed, in which he complained about mask ordinances and getting traffic tickets, according to the Daily Dot website.
“Apparently, I cannot go more than a month or two without getting robbed by government thugs for some made-up traffic violation,” Caserta wrote in one post. “They robbed me for going around someone who was turning left at a blinking yellow light, on a one lane f—ing road.”
Days before his arrest, Caserta wrote: “Is it morally legitimate to initiate violence and theft against nonviolent people?”
A meme Caserta shared shows a man with his face obscured holding a rifle, with the caption “when you’ve smoked 3 commies before you can legally smoke cigarettes.”