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SC Gov. McMaster was target of group accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan governor

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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster

COLUMBIA — Gov. Henry McMaster was among additional targets of a group accused of plotting to kidnap and harm Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this month, according to a published report Wednesday.

One of the alleged Whitmer plotters was arrested this month in Columbia, but there is no immediate indication that Paul Edward Bellar, 21, was involved in plans to go after McMaster. 

Instead, the threat against McMaster were found in Facebook messages tied to Barry Croft, a Delaware man who is among more than a dozen people facing federal and state charges in the Whitmer kidnap plot, according to an unsealed FBI search warrant affidavit obtained by The Detroit News

In messages referencing McMaster, Croft told another Facebook user in May that “he may be first,” with the user responding: “SC,” according to news report.

Croft then replied, “Yup. I’m going. With Sword."

Croft wrote the next day “I’ll die in defense of the constitution” and “I’ll be in Columbia, SC, on Friday. They say they want their governor in custody,” The Detroit News reported.

Croft also threatened to hang President Donald Trump and had a hit list that included former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, the paper said, citing the warrant.

McMaster's office declined comment Wednesday. A spokesman for the FBI in Columbia did not return messages seeking comment.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has been the target of critics angered over her orders that led to lengthy shut-downs of businesses in Michigan as COVID-19 cases spread. 

McMaster's response to the coronavirus outbreak was much different. The Republican governor in April issued the last stay-at-home order for a state east of the Mississippi River and he led South Carolina to be among the nation's first to reopen businesses this summer.

The men arrested in a plot to kidnap Whitmer and her family were angry at many politicians and targeted Republicans, including Trump, who has criticized the Michigan governor.

Reached by phone Wednesday by The Post and Courier, Bellar’s father said he was unaware of the new allegations involving McMaster, but denied his son would have anything to do with that.

“That’s not Paul,” Thomas Bellar said.

Paul Bellar was not named in the newly unsealed charges, according to The Detroit News. He moved to Columbia in July to live with his father, two months after Croft's messages about going after McMaster.

Bellar is charged in Michigan state court with supporting a terrorist act, felony affiliation with a gang and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. He is accused by law enforcement of being a “sergeant” for the militia that plotted the Whitmer kidnapping.

Prosecutors allege Bellar, a former Army trainee at Fort Jackson, drew on his military experience to train the group in Michigan on the use of firearms, medical treatment and other “tactical exercises.”

His father had told The Post and Courier that his son attended some “training sessions” with the militia group, but quickly severed his ties.

After he was arrested in South Carolina, law enforcement extradited Bellar earlier this month to Michigan, where he is being held in a county jail, his father said.

Follow Andy Shain on Facebook (andyshain12) and Twitter (@andyshain)

Columbia/Myrtle Beach Managing Editor

Andy Shain runs The Post and Courier's newsrooms based in Columbia and Myrtle Beach. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

Joseph Cranney is an investigative reporter in Columbia, with a focus on government corruption and injustices in the criminal legal system. He can be reached securely by Proton mail at jcranney@prontonmail.com or on Signal at 215-285-9083.

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