by Julie Kelly
A federal judge next month is scheduled to sentence two men convicted of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer from her lakeside cottage in the fall of 2020. Adam Fox, the alleged ringleader, and Barry Croft, Jr. face years in prison.
During the first trial in April, Fox and Croft received a hung jury while two co-defendants were acquitted on all charges based on extensive evidence of FBI entrapment. A jury found Fox and Croft guilty after a second trial in August thanks to the same judge putting his thumb—body?—on the scale in favor of the government.
But the matter is far from over. Defense attorneys are expected to file an appeal following the sentencing hearing on December 28 and will likely include allegations of juror misconduct and judicial bias during the retrial. Further, the defense undoubtedly will ask the appellate court to consider a trove of evidence both juries were not allowed to see—incriminating communications between FBI agents and informants responsible for engineering the plot to make it look like “white supremacist” militias loyal to Donald Trump attempted to abduct and assassinate one of his biggest political foes right before the 2020 presidential election.
As that legal process plays out in Grand Rapids, House Republicans in Washington appear poised to add the Whitmer fednapping hoax to a long line of congressional inquiries into political corruption at the Department of Justice. This is welcome news; no operation in recent FBI history is more illustrative of the bureau’s capability and willingness to create optics favorable to Democrats, especially during campaign season, while advancing FBI Director Christopher Wray’s bogus claim that “domestic violent extremists” are a major threat to the country.
A 1,050-page report released by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month detailed “problems festering within the FBI’s Washington bureaucracy” including the targeting of conservative elected officials and activists. Whistleblowers have disclosed to investigators how the bureau—the Washington FBI field office in particular—is exploiting the events of January 6 and manipulating investigative protocols to portray domestic terrorism as a nationwide problem.
And this is where the Whitmer fednapping comes into play. “Not only is the FBI apparently exaggerating the number of actual DVE cases, it appears to have manufactured at least one DVE case,” House Republicans wrote. “Weeks before the November 2020 presidential election, the Justice Department filed a criminal complaint against six men for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Evidence presented at trial suggests that FBI assets were directly involved in the kidnapping plot.”
Not only were FBI assets directly involved, testimony offered by FBI agents during both trials suggested the “terror enterprise investigation”—the FBI’s clever way of labeling the scheme—required the knowledge and approval of Department of Justice higher-ups including FBI Director Christopher Wray and possibly former Attorney General William Barr. Handling agents and informants working out of several FBI field offices in the eastern half of the country organized meetings, field training exercises, and surveillance trips to Whitmer’s home to produce evidence against their targets.
The lead informant, Dan Chappel, was compensated by the FBI about $60,000 in cash and personal items for seven months’ work; in December 2020, the FBI handed Chappel an envelope with $23,500 for mission accomplished. (In one text, Chappel’s handling agent commends him for “bringing people together.”)
Another longtime FBI informant, Stephen Robeson, committed at least two other crimes as he successfully lured the government’s victims into the trap; some FBI informants and undercover agents later admitted to violating FBI policies for confidential human sources such as getting drunk with targets, sharing hotel rooms, and directly offering ideas to advance the “kidnapping” plan.
Now, House Republicans want answers from the officials responsible for the caper, starting with Steven D’Antuono, former head of the Detroit FBI field office when the fednapping went down. FBI employees under D’Antuono’s supervision at the time primarily orchestrated the entrapment operation and managed Chappel. Undercover agents inserted toward the end of the operation also worked for D’Antuono.
A week after the arrests were announced in the case, Wray promoted D’Antuono to head the Washington FBI field office, the same office now accused of manufacturing evidence on “domestic terrorism” and handling the criminal investigation into January 6—including the raid on Mar-A-Lago.
In a November 18 letter to Wray, Representative James Jordan (R-Ohio), incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked for D’Antuono’s testimony “in either hearings or transcribed interviews” immediately after Republicans retake control of the House. Investigators should have a lengthy list of questions for D’Antuono—who reportedly is retiring at the end of the month—not the least of which is why he chose to arrest the faux kidnappers a month before Election Day 2020 as millions of Americans were voting early for president.
The men obviously posed no real threat to Whitmer, particularly since she has publicly admitted she knew of the plot months before. So why announce the arrests in a crucial swing state at that time? As I reported, the arrests produced damaging headlines for Trump as Whitmer and Team Biden accused him of inciting violence against a political nemesis. The entire matter became a major issue in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Was this another example of the FBI attempting to sabotage Trump’s candidacy?
Speaking of Whitmer’s foreknowledge, Jordan also wants to hear from Mark Totten, the current U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan. Appointed by Biden and confirmed in May, Totten recused himself from prosecuting the second trial of Fox and Croft.
Croft’s attorney filed a lawsuit seeking Totten’s reasons but the Justice Department has refused to release internal documents as to why Totten recused himself in his office’s most high profile prosecution perhaps ever.
Could it be because Totten, who served as Whitmer’s general counsel for three years before accepting his new post, also knew about the entrapment scheme? Was he in communication with D’Antuono or any of his agents in 2020? What did Totten know and when did he know it?
As the January 6 narrative continues to crumble amid revelations numerous FBI informants were embedded in so-called militia groups—mirroring what happened in the Whitmer entrapment operation at the same time—months before the Capitol protest, it’s imperative that congressional investigators uncover all similarities between the two events. Justice for the innocent individuals preyed upon in both situations demands it.
The pathway to truly exposing the corrupt rot at the FBI runs through the Whitmer fednapping hoax. Good on House Republicans for taking aim at this massive scandal.
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Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right and Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. She is the co-host of the “Happy Hour Podcast with Julie and Liz.” She is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two daughters.
Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol” by Paula Nardini.