An intensive examination of court filings in the state and federal prosecutions of the 14 alleged Gretchen Whitmer kidnap plotters raises disturbing questions about whether the threat to the governor was an actual plot, or a set-up orchestrated by the FBI.
The online news outlet BuzzFeed combed through legal documents and interviewed defense attorneys and others with knowledge of the case.
The work of investigative reporters Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison raises the credible possibility that without the aggressive encouragement of undercover FBI agents and informants, there would have been no kidnap plot.
The feds used at least 12 informants in its investigation, just two fewer than the number of suspects.
Many were assigned to infiltrate the various right-wing militia groups whose members came together to plan and train for an assault on Whitmer.
The informants, though, were not mere flies on the wall, according to BuzzFeed.
Rather, they appear to have been active participants in the planning of and training for what prosecutors charge was an elaborate scheme to snatch Whitmer from her northern Michigan vacation home last October and put her on trial as a “tyrant.”
And the whole thing may have been the FBI’s idea in the first place.
Defense attorneys appear poised to make a case for entrapment when trials begin in state and federal courts this fall.
The defendants, members of the Patriot movement, mostly acknowledge engaging in “fantasy” talk about killing police officers and overthrowing the government.
But they claim it was nothing but jawboning until the FBI got involved.
Defense attorneys will argue that infiltrators recruited by the FBI took this ragtag group of loud-mouthed yahoos and molded them into a kidnap squad, training them to do what they never could have done on their own.
According to BuzzFeed, prosecutors maintain their case is solid and the accused presented a serious danger to the governor. One defendant has already pleaded guilty for conspiracy.
The report says a lead informant, an Iraq war vet, was coaxed into service by agents after he reported disturbing contacts with militia members advocating violence against police.
The informant, known only as Dan, would later on help give flesh to the big talk of militia members about punishing Whitmer for her COVID-19 shutdown orders, according to the reporting.
Dan trained the defendants in military assault tactics and, while not on the FBI payroll, the agency, according to the reporters, bought him a car and paid his mortgage. His total take was more than $54,000 for seven months work.
Other infiltrators encouraged the recruiting of additional extremists to the plotting, paying for an Ohio hotel conference where anti-government groups from throughout the country convened.
Defense attorneys will argue that it was the FBI operatives who congealed the plot and provided the resources to keep it moving ahead.
Why would the FBI do that? Perhaps to exaggerate the threat of domestic terrorism and support the narrative that White nationalists are the biggest risk facing the nation.
Whatever the reason, the agency employed a reckless tactic.
Given the large number of FBI operatives involved and the integral role the defense claims they played in the scheme, it seems unlikely that things could have gotten out of control and led to an actual attack on Whitmer.
But that’s not certain. Had the governor been harmed, how much responsibility would the FBI have borne for watering the seed of the plot and nurturing its growth?
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