GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was “disgusting,” “abhorrent, deplorable, all the terrible words I can come up with.” But, he said, it was not surprising.

“The truth is these people have been empowered, encouraged, emboldened and given cover by people like the president of the United States, people like the Republican leadership in the state of Michigan who have met with and fraternized with these people, who have created the rhetorical space for them to plan these violent actions,” Gilchrist, a Democrat, told News 8 during a virtual interview Friday morning, echoing statements from Whitmer the previous day.

Thirteen men from militia groups face federal and state-level charges for the conspiracy, which authorities made public Thursday. Angry at the way Whitmer responded to the coronavirus pandemic, the FBI alleges, the suspects planned to kidnap her from her vacation home in Antrim County and take her to Wisconsin, where they would try her for treason in a kangaroo court.

Months earlier, in April, two of the suspects were among militia members who, carrying long guns, entered the Michigan Capitol Building and went into the Senate gallery during a protest.

“They could have started carrying out this plot then,” Gilchrist, who was in the chamber that day, said. “It really speaks to just a culture of violence and being anti-Democratic that has been sown by Republicans. And this kind of terrorist gang activity, it cannot stand.”

He argued that when Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, went up to the gallery and spoke with the armed men, he “legitimize(d) them.”

“The majority leader marched out of the Capitol yesterday after this plot had been announced, after he had said some rosy things on the Senate floor, and basically told people to keep it up on the steps of the Michigan Capitol,” Gilchrist said. “That is not responsible behavior.”

Gilchrist said one thing the Republican-led Legislature can do to change the atmosphere is ban guns from the Capitol. Republicans have indicated they have no intention to do that and the Michigan Capitol Commission has punted on the matter.