The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now coming under increasing scrutiny for tactics it used during the Whitmer kidnapping plot. The FBI used at least 12 informants in the operation and fourteen members of the purported extremist group it infiltrated have been charged. One of the lead informants himself, Richard Trask, has been arrested for domestic violence, raising further questions about the credibility of the FBI’s operation.
“Entrapment claims, allegations that media tainted the possibility of a fair trial and the arrest of a lead FBI agent who’s now accused of brutally beating his wife following a swingers’ sex party are among the latest developments in the prosecution of 14 men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” Michigan Live reported on Sunday.
The alleged plot on Whitmer goes back to last September, in the heat of the 2020 campaign and in the midst of the state governor’s controversial lockdown response. Text messages exchanged among the alleged extremist members were heated. The FBI was drawn to the messages, and as the defense has claimed, allegedly stoked them further.
“One night in September, three vehicles filled with alleged terrorists and undercover FBI informants conducted surveillance on Whitmer’s vacation home. A group stopped to inspect a bridge that one FBI informant said he could help them detonate in an effort to slow police response should they abduct Whitmer from her Birch Lake cottage near Grand Traverse Bay,” the report continued. “Others used night vision goggles to peer in on the politician’s home from across the water at a boat launch.”
“The plan, according to the FBI and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, was to kidnap Whitmer and potentially strand her in the lake or transport her to Wisconsin to be tried for treason in the hopes of sparking a civil war,” the report added.
But recent court filings are now demanding that all pertinent FBI communications be released that could demonstrate that the accused should be exonerated on grounds of entrapment.
On July 15, the attorneys for the defendant Kaleb Franks made such a case in a court filing.
“Kaleb Franks moves for an order directing the government to disclose allrecords related to the recruiting of, use of, and interaction with, the confidentialhuman sources who participated in the investigation of this matter,” the motion read.
As Michigan Live notes, the case for entrapment is becoming a likely defense for several of the accused in the Whitmer kidnapping case.
“Attorneys for several of the accused conspirators in court filings and during arguments claim this is a case of entrapment, that without the FBI and its at least one dozen paid informants encouraging the men, offering up an explosives expert or paying for hotels and other costs related to meetings and training sessions, the plan would have never hatched,” Michigan Live reported.
“When Kaleb Franks set out to train in weaponry and tactics, enjoy time outdoors, and spend a midwestern summer trying to find respite from the cares of professional and personal obligations and demands, he had no thoughts of harassing the government, staging a coup, or ending up on the national stage as an alleged terrorist,” attorney Scott Graham wrote in the July 15 court filing. “Only through the diligent efforts of government informants and undercover agents did Mr. Franks end up framed as a lawless agitator.”
“Graham in a motion is asking Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker of the Western District of Michigan to order the FBI to release to the defense all of its communications with and files pertaining to informants,” the report noted.
Controversially, one of the FBI agents leading the Whitmer plot investigation became violent after taking his wife to a “swinger’s party” in Michigan and was subsequently arrested himself.
“One of the FBI agents who has been leading the investigation into an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor was arrested Sunday after his wife said he smashed her head on a nightstand and strangled her following an argument about a swingers party they went to,” Buzzfeed News reported.
The arrest of an FBI agent credited with helping thwart a plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer complicates one of the most closely watched cases of violent extremism in the country https://t.co/OHC7naEYFz via @detroitnews pic.twitter.com/PiZln7L9Te
— Robert Snell (@robertsnellnews) July 19, 2021
“Special Agent Richard J. Trask was charged with one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder or by strangulation in connection with the alleged assault,” the report continued.
The FBI special agent was a veteran of the force who had become the most prominent agent in the Whitmer case.
“Trask, 39, has worked for the FBI since 2011 and served as the FBI’s public face in the Whitmer case, testifying in federal court about the investigation,” Detroit News reported. “He has worked on cases involving espionage, terrorism and domestic extremism investigations.”
The FBI used not only agents but “at least 12 confidential informants,” according to Buzzfeed News. The news website provides an overview of the Whitmer case that is helpful for assessing the extent of the FBI’s role in the kidnapping plot’s development.
“An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported,” the website reported. “Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.”
“A longtime government informant from Wisconsin, for example, helped organize a series of meetings around the country where many of the alleged plotters first met one another and the earliest notions of a plan took root, some of those people say,” the report continued. “The Wisconsin informant even paid for some hotel rooms and food as an incentive to get people to come.”
“But the defendants, as well as others caught up in the sweeping investigation — which stretched from Baltimore to Kansas City — claim their talk never rose beyond the level of fantasy and they never intended to harm anyone,” the report noted. “Although they have not denied participating in training events, attending meetings, and communicating with other defendants, they claim that no actual conspiracy to kidnap the governor ever existed. Instead, they say, they were targeted because of their political views.”
One defendant has formally accused the government of entrapment, “arguing that the FBI assembled the key plotters, encouraged the group’s anti-government feelings, and even gave its members military-style training,” the report added.
The FBI’s track record of using informants over its 113 year history is that it has “coerced innocent people, falsified evidence, and even committed murder,” the report notes.
The Whitmer kidnapping plot is vital to understanding the FBI’s role in the origin of the January 6th initiation. Although the House has formed a committee to investigation the uprising, it is unlikely to delve into such matters as the FBI’s penetration of extremist groups or the glaring lack of security around the Capitol building that day.
In court, the government has pointed to the alleged Whitmer kidnapping plot to draw a bright line to the January 6th events. But if it is shown that the kidnapping plot could not have happened without the FBI’s involvement, it will raise more questions than provide answers.