The FBI got walloped last week when a Michigan jury concluded that the bureau had entrapped two men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Those men and others were arrested a few weeks before the 2020 election in a high-profile, FBI-fabricated case that Joe Biden claimed showed President Trump’s “tolerance of hate, vengeance, and lawlessness to plots such as this one.” But the jury verdict exposes how the feds have created the monsters they parade to vindicate their vast power over Americans.
Biden won the 2020 election because of the early voting, and the Michigan kidnapping plot was one of the biggest stories in October 2020. Prior to the presidential election, Attorney General Bill Barr assured that news did not leak about multiple federal investigations into Hunter Biden. But the FBI felt no such constraints and trumpeted a ludicrous scheme that was shot down even by a jury that a federal judge had largely blindfolded.
Pains of lockdown
Whitmer enraged many Michiganders by placing the entire state under house arrest after the outbreak of COVID-19. Anyone who left their home to visit family or friends risked a $1,000 fine, and business owners faced 3 years in prison for refusing to close their stores. Unemployment soared to 24% statewide, but Whitmer’s policies failed to prevent more than 2 million Michiganders from contracting COVID.
Whitmer was denounced at protests and on the Facebook page of the “Wolverine Watchmen,” where angry anti-government bluster poured forth. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress in October 2020 that Facebook had “identified” the Whitmer kidnap plot “as a signal to the FBI about six months ago” regarding “suspicious activity on our platform.”
But the plot didn’t exist at that point.
That is, until multiple government-paid newcomers joined the group. Stephen Robeson, an FBI informant with a list of felonies and other crimes, organized key events to build the movement.
Dan Chapel, another FBI informant who was paid $54,000, became second-in-command and masterminded the military training for the group, even as he helped the feds wiretape their messages.
Though several militia members explicitly opposed kidnapping the governor, Chapel and Robeson helped hatch a ludicrous plot to snatch Whitmer from her vacation home and take her away for trial. FBI operatives took the participants, who prattled idiotically about stealing a Blackhawk helicopter, for drives near Whitmer’s vacation home, which supposedly proved they were going to nab the governor and unleash havoc.
It was all a setup. Shortly before that excursion, an FBI agent texted instructions to Chapel: “Mission is to kill the governor specifically.” There were as many FBI informants and undercover agents as there were purported plotters in this case.
The conspiracy began unraveling even before the trial began last March. Robert Trask, the lead FBI agent and “the public face” of the kidnapping case, was fired after he was arrested for “beating his wife during an argument over an orgy that the two had attended at a hotel in Kalamazoo, Mich.,” The New York Times reported. Two other key FBI agents were sidelined from the case for misconduct (including creating a side hustle with his own cybersecurity firm).
When the arrests were announced in October 2020, a top Justice Department attorney proclaimed that the case showed that “our state and federal governments are working together to keep us all safe.” But the case actually illustrated how the Supreme Court and federal judges have entitled federal agencies to create the crimes they claim to thwart.
Prior to the 1970s, defendants often successfully challenged entrapment as a violation of due process. But in 1973, the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, gutted most defenses against government entrapment by focusing almost solely on the “subjective disposition” of the entrapped person.
If prosecutors can find any inkling of a defendant’s disposition to the crime, then the person is guilty, no matter how outrageous or abusive the government agents’ behavior. Justice William Brennan dissented, warning that the decision could empower law enforcement agents to “round up and jail all ‘predisposed’ individuals.”
Entrapment operations exploded thanks to those court rulings. Trevor Aaronson, author of “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism,” estimated that only about 1% of the 500 people charged with international terrorism offenses in the decade after 9/11 were bona fide threats. Thirty times as many were induced by the FBI to behave in ways that prompted their arrest.
Thanks to Supreme Court rulings minimizing entrapment defenses, federal Judge Robert Jonker blocked defense attorneys from informing the jury of almost all the evidence of federal misconduct in the Whitmer case.
As BuzzFeed’s Ken Bensinger reported, the jury refused to convict “despite the government’s extraordinary efforts to muzzle the defense . . . Prosecutors went to extraordinary lengths to exclude evidence and witnesses that might undermine their arguments, while winning the right to bring in almost anything favorable to their own side.”
BuzzFeed noted that the judge “ruled that defendants could not inquire about the past conduct of several FBI agents, though the government would be allowed to question the defendants about episodes in their own past.” But the jury saw enough to smell a federal rat.
What else are they up to?
The Times reported in January that the Michigan case was “one of the most significant recent domestic terrorism cases, a test of Washington’s commitment . . . to pursue far-right groups who seek to kindle a violent, anti-government insurgency.” FBI chief Christopher Wray told Congress last year that the FBI has 2,000 ongoing domestic terrorism investigations.
How many additional crimes or conspiracies is the FBI fomenting at this moment? Will Americans ever learn what role, if any, the FBI had in goading forward some of those arrested in the Jan. 6 Capitol clash? And what about Team Biden’s efforts to continually expand the definition of dangerous extremist to sanctify its power?
Last June, the Biden administration revealed that guys who can’t get laid may be terrorist threats due to “involuntary celibate–violent extremism.”
Who entitled the FBI to entrap anyone whose ideas they disapprove? Will the Michigan debacle derail Biden’s campaign to portray government critics as dangerous extremists who must be hounded and suppressed?
After the arrests were announced in 2020, Whitmer denounced Trump: “When our leaders meet with, encourage, and or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions. They are complicit.” But what about politicians who make no effort to control the law enforcement agencies they unleash to punish innocent Americans?