US President Donald Trump's campaign changed a rally venue from a gun range in Virginia after discovering the range's former employee was arrested for plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Fox News reported Tuesday.
The rally, meant to take place in Virginia's Huron Valley Guns, was moved to the Suburban Snowplace in November. Paul Bellar, the 21-year-old employee, was reportedly terminated earlier this year after the management was uncomfortable with his conduct.
"There is no doubt the kid is a knucklehead," Huron Valley Guns owner Ed Swadish told Fox 2. "Basically he worked on the range ensuring our customers wore their safety glasses and their goggles at all times," he continued.
"If I don't come out and be forthcoming about the hot second the kid was there, who knows what people can construe as far as his relation to my company," Swadish added, "and it was like zero."
According to the business owner, the Trump campaign was "afraid based on the type of comments Governor Whitmer is making about Trump being to blame for the alleged plot, that it would not be in their interest to give her more ammunition."
FBI agent Richard Trask testified in a Tuesday preliminary hearing that the 13 suspects arrested for plotting to kidnap Whitmer also intended to abduct Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for the states' "coronavirus-related lockdown orders," CNN reported.
"They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically governors of Michigan and Virginia, over shutdown orders," Trask said. "The understanding at the time was to potentially kidnap a sitting governor and remove [the governor] from office," he added.
The group reportedly trained for the planned kidnappings at a rural property in Munith, Michigan. The preparations included firearms training, medical training and an attempt to detonate an improvised explosive device, Trask said, according to CNN.
"Per security protocols for highly-classified information, neither the governor nor other members of his staff were informed," Northam's press secretary Alena Yarmosky said, according to the media outlet. "At no time was the governor or his family in imminent danger."
According to Yarmosky, "enhanced security measures have been in place for Governor Northam and his family for quite some time, and they will remain."
The press secretary also blamed Trump for inciting violence by calling to "liberate" Michigan and Virginia mid-April.
"Here's the reality: President Trump called upon his supporters to 'LIBERATE VIRGINIA' in April – just like Michigan," she said, according to CNN. "In fact, the president regularly encourages violence against those who disagree with him."
According to Yarmosky, "the rhetoric coming out of this White House has serious and potentially deadly consequences. It must stop."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded to the allegations, saying that Trump "has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate. Governor Whitmer, and now Governor Northam, are sowing division by making these outlandish allegations."