The FBI allegedly played a much “larger role” in the plot to kidnap Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to a BuzzFeed News report. The defense had originally planned to argue that the alleged plotters were “induced or persuaded” by the FBI.
At least 12 FBI informants and undercover FBI agents were involved with gathering information against the anti-government militia members who allegedly planned to kidnap Whitmer. BuzzFeed claimed that the FBI played a greater role than was previously known. The months-long investigation eventually led to the arrest of 14 individuals in connection to the plot to kidnap Whitmer, and 13 of them have pleaded not guilty, according to BuzzFeed.
The defendants claimed that the FBI-connected individuals often encouraged militia members to engage in the planning process and other criminal activities, and facilitated some of these interactions, according to Buzzfeed. From the defendants’ perspective, the informants and undercover agents were crucial pieces to the alleged plot. The defense further argued claimed that without the FBI’s influence, there may have never been a conspiracy to allegedly kidnap the governor, according to BuzzFeed.
One of these informants, a man from Wisconsin, reportedly planned meet-ups for the anti-government militia members, even paying for hotel rooms and food to incentivize some of these militia members. The earliest versions of the plan to take Whitmer hostage began at those meetings, BuzzFeed reported.
NEW: When 14 men were charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan’s governor and kick off a civil war last fall, it was hailed as a triumph in the FBI’s battle against domestic terrorism.
But the men say they weren’t plotting. They say they were set up. https://t.co/eWUbospoXj
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 20, 2021
Another informant, a veteran of the Iraq War named “Dan,” infiltrated a militia group based out of Michigan so successfully that he became second-in-command.
Dan, who then worked at a post office outside Flint, became an informant for the FBI after he joined a Facebook group called the Wolverine Watchmen. At the time, Dan, 33, was searching for a community of individuals who loved the Second Amendment and guns as much as he does. The Watchmen described themselves as “a group of Patriots,” looking to “recruit like-minded individuals,” according to court documents. Before Dan was able to enter the group, he had to answer a series of screening questions, BuzzFeed reported.
A message on the group’s Facebook page encouraged Dan to download an encrypted messaging app called Wire, court documents show. After he joined the app, there were another series of questions regarding his political views. He told the group he was a libertarian, believed in small government and had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, according to court documents, and was given access to the Wolverine Watchmen’s main chat on Wire.
In the chat, the members of the Wolverine Watchmen routinely referenced what they called the Big Boog, the Big Igloo, or the Big Luau, and labeled themselves the Boojahideen. Later, Dan would learn that these are stand-in terms for a civil war called the “boogaloo,” court documents claim. One member, Pete Musico, allegedly told the other Wolverine Watchmen to download a hunting app that he claimed would enable the group to track police officers and find their addresses so the militia members could murder them in their homes, court documents allege.
Dan was shocked at the extremism of some members; he told a friend, who was a local police officer, about the group. A few days after alerting his police officer friend, Dan received a text from FBI Special Agent Jayson Chambers, who invited him to come to the FBI’s office in Flint, court documents read.
Chambers and his partner Henrik Impola were both members of the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit. They asked Dan to go undercover as an informant, according to BuzzFeed. Dan warily agreed to become an FBI informant because he felt law enforcement was in serious danger. While their initial discussion did not discuss payment, Dan was eventually given $24,000 and a new car from the FBI, court documents said, according to BuzzFeed.
Dan eventually rose in the militia’s chain of command, and allegedly directed his militia members to coordinate with other persons of interest, and paid for some of the transportation costs to and from meetings, according to BuzzFeed. Dan allegedly encouraged the mastermind behind Whitmer’s kidnapping to keep the plan moving forward, only to help authorities spring the trap that would lead to several of the alleged conspirators’ arrests, BuzzFeed reported.
For six months, Dan wore a wire and gathered hundreds of hours of recordings for the FBI, according to BuzzFeed.
“Everybody down with what’s going on?” Dan said as a group of the militia members took part in a recon mission around Birch Lake near Whitmers’ vacation cottage, according to court documents.
As one of the militia’s leaders, Dan was reportedly able to bring in another Wolverine Watchmen member, an undercover FBI Agent by the name “Red,” court documents claimed. Red was a supposed explosives expert that could help the group get the explosives they needed to blow up a bridge near Birch Lake that would inhibit law enforcement’s ability to respond to the kidnapping, and give them enough time to escape with the governor, court documents showed. Red claimed that $4,000 worth of C-4 would be enough to destroy the Elk River bridge. The men agreed to raise enough funds to purchase the explosives.
“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…” https://t.co/ahiYknRAg1
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) July 20, 2021
Another FBI informant, who went by the name Mark, was also able to infiltrate the group. Mark joined through 37-year-old Adam Fox, one of the men indicted in the alleged conspiracy, after a woman posing as Mark’s girlfriend told Fox’s then-fiancé they were looking to join the militia group, court documents show. Mark was among those present during the recon mission at Birch Lake.
The alleged plan, months in the making, would be foiled by the FBI just three weeks later, BuzzFeed reported. On Oct. 7, 2020, Dan picked up four other militiamen on the way to meet with Red to purchase the explosives. The men were far short of the $4,000 Red said was needed to purchase the C-4, but upon arriving to the rendezvous, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was waiting to arrest the men, according to BuzzFeed.
A number of other alleged co-conspirators were arrested in Michigan, South Carolina and New Jersey, BuzzFeed’s report said. (RELATED: Grand Jury For Gov. Whitmer Kidnapping Attempt Adds ‘Weapon Of Mass Destruction’ Charges)
Eight members of the Wolverine Watchmen have been charged by the state of Michigan in the alleged kidnapping attempt. Paul Bellar, 21, Shawn Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Michael Null, 38, William Null, 38, Pete Musico, 42, Joseph Morrison, 26, and Brian Higgins, 51, face a variety of charges, ranging from firearm to terrorism-related charges, according to CNN.
Six individuals, Fox, Ty Garbin, 24, Kaleb Franks, 26, Daniel Harris, 23, Brandon Caserta, 32, and Barry Croft, 44, have been charged by the federal government for conspiring to kidnap Whitmer, CNN reported.
Prosecutors say the thousands of social media posts, 400,000 text messages, and over 1,300 hours of recordings prove that those arrested and charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer were not just expressing anti-government sentiments. They say that the defendants took concrete steps to accomplish their alleged mission, according to BuzzFeed.
Defendants counterclaim they were targeted for their political views. The communications that prosecutors believe prove there was a criminal conspiracy to kidnap the governor, they argue, are actually constitutionally protected forms of speech, BuzzFeed reported.
Some of the defendants allege the investigation was a premeditated campaign from the government to undermine their movement. One defendant has even gone so far as to formally accuse the government of entrapment based on the actions of the FBI’s undercover agents and informants. Other defendants said they will pursue similar actions in court as the defendants’ various cases in federal and state courts are set to begin as early as October, according to BuzzFeed.