Mike Shirkey, Michigan's Republican State Senate majority leader, met last year with militia members who organized armed protests against their state's pandemic restrictions -- including two members who would subsequently be charged in a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The New York Times reports that Shirkey last year overcame initial misgivings he had about the optics of armed militias demonstrating at the Michigan State Capitol building and went on to speak at militia-organized events protesting pandemic lockdowns.
Some members of these militias would eventually be implicated in a plot to kidnap and possibly kill Whitmer for public health measures she implemented to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic -- and the Times writes that "at least two of the suspects had participated in... the gathering with Mr. Shirkey in Grand Rapids" earlier in the year.
In an interview with the Times, Shirkey defended his meeting with militia members and he claimed that he gave them useful advice such as making sure they don't bring live rounds of ammunition with them when they come into the Capitol building.
Shirkey also expressed empathy with the violent pro-Trump rioters who stormed the United States Capitol building last month.
"It was people feeling oppressed, and depressed, responding to what they thought was government just stealing their lives from them," he told the Times. "And I'm not endorsing and supporting their actions, but I understand where they come from."