The first defendant to plead guilty in the alleged scheme to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will spend the next several years in jail. A judge last week sentenced Ty Garbin, 25, to 75 months in prison on one count of “conspiracy to kidnap.” His five co-defendants have pleaded not guilty; their trial is set to begin October 12.
The case made major headlines right before Election Day 2020 as early voting was underway in the crucial swing state. It was useful fodder for Democrats and Joe Biden.
“We have come to a point where, despite our shock, we are not surprised that such a heinous plot was even conceived—a plot by Americans to blow up a bridge on American soil, threaten the lives of police officers and other law enforcement officials, and kidnap an American leader, take her hostage, and stage a mock trial for treason,” Biden said October 9. Donald Trump, Biden claimed “is giving oxygen to the bigotry and hate we see on the march in our country.”
But as defendants prepare for trial, the media-crafted façade surrounding the Whitmer plot, just like the immediate designation of January 6 as an “armed insurrection,” is falling apart. Court documents suggest at least 12 FBI agents and informants helped develop the scheme in the spring of 2020; Garbin and his co-defendants were arrested on October 7 after attempting to buy explosives from an undercover FBI agent. One informant, who went by the code name “Thor,” was paid $24,000 and given a new car by the FBI for his services.
A bombshell report by Darren Beattie at Revolver News explained the FBI’s extensive role in orchestrating the most damning aspects of the kidnapping caper. “The plot’s ‘explosives expert,’ who the plotters were accused of planning to buy bombs from, turned out to be an FBI agent. The head of transportation for the militia outfit turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. The head of security for the militia outfit turned out to be an undercover FBI informant. At least two undercover FBI informants were active participants in the initial June 6, 2020 meeting in which the plot to storm Capitol buildings was allegedly hatched—meaning at least three FBI informants infiltrated before the conspiracy even started.”
A screenshot of a text cited in a defense motion shows FBI Special Agent Jayson Chambers, “Thor’s” handler, underscoring that the mission of the ragtag group is to “kill the governor specifically.” An in-depth report by BuzzFeed confirmed an FBI agent had been “assigned” to each suspect.
How the FBI seemingly concocted the Whitmer kidnapping plot and made it public right before the election raises legitimate questions about the FBI’s potential involvement on January 6, especially considering the same “extremist” groups—the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers—are tied to both. (Whitmer, who was never in any danger of being kidnapped, told CNN’s Erin Burnett she knew about the operation weeks before the perpetrators were arrested. She complained the Trump campaign did not “check in on her” after a plot to “kidnap and kill her” went public.)
The precursor to the kidnapping ruse, interestingly, was a plan to attack the state capitol in Lansing. The parallels are uncanny.
For example, Garbin met with a few wannabe terrorists at a Second Amendment rally in Michigan’s capital on June 18, 2020, to recruit “200 people to storm the Capitol, try any politician they caught for ‘treason,’ and execute them by hanging them on live television,” according to his plea agreement. Ironically, on January 6, some protesters were heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and a makeshift gallow with a noose had been erected on the west side of the Capitol in a now-iconic image of that day.
The plotters, however, abandoned plans to storm Michigan’s capitol building and shifted to the kidnapping ruse.
But an anti-lockdown protest in April 2020, which involved “Thor” and presumably other FBI assets, draws even more comparisons to January 6. Wearing a wire, “Thor” went to Lansing on April 30 to meet up with members of the “Wolverine Watchmen,” alleged militia members who would later be charged in the kidnapping scheme. After “Thor” communicated with his FBI handlers, according to a BuzzFeed investigation into the case, “something surprising happened. The Michigan State Police stood down and let the protesters—including those in full tactical gear—enter the building unopposed. They could even bring their guns.”
Police stood down and let protesters wearing military garb into the building? Where have we heard this before?
BuzzFeed continued: “The Watchmen rushed to the building’s second floor. When [one defendant] spotted state troopers, he got in their faces, screaming, taking pictures of their badges with his phone, daring them to touch him. The Watchmen, meanwhile, had worked their way toward an office they thought was Whitmer’s and were banging hard on the door. Photojournalists began snapping pictures. The shocking spectacle of the militants occupying the Capitol grabbed the media’s attention.”
Almost eight months later, many of the same tactics including banging on office doors looking for elected officials were used in the nation’s capital resulting in similar images.
Now, federal prosecutors are using January 6 as a cautionary tale in court filings related to the Whitmer case. Rejecting valid arguments that the defendants could not have pulled off the kidnapping even if they tried, Andrew Birge, the U.S. attorney prosecuting the Whitmer defendants, wrote in Garbin’s sentencing memo that “we need look no further than the events of January 6, 2020 [sic] for an illustration. The rioters there failed to stop Congress from certifying the election, but they certainly demonstrated that amateurs can kill first responders and destroy property.”
“Kill first responders?” Birge, like so many prosecutors and the entire news media, continues to advance the lie that police officers were killed by Trump “insurrectionists” on January 6. And despite claims the Capitol sustained $30 million in damage, the actual figure is less than $1.5 million.
“As the Capitol riots demonstrated, an inchoate conspiracy can turn into a grave substantive offense on short notice. Such accelerationist groups are widespread and proliferating,” Birge claimed, without evidence.
Whitmer, for her part, submitted a “victim impact statement” prior to Garbin’s sentencing last week where she also raised the four-hour disturbance nearly eight months ago as part of her ongoing struggle to cope.
“The rise in violent extremism in America is one of the gravest threats we face. The violent insurrection we witnessed on January 6 is not an anomaly, it is our future if we do not work to address how we got here.” The entire nation, Whitmer laments, has been victimized by the FBI sting operation that never posed any threat to her safety. “I am not the only one who has been impacted by this kidnapping plot. It is like throwing a pebble into a pond. The ripples expand to include my family and loved ones, the state I love, the citizens I serve, the country I have always believed in and the idea of democracy itself. We have all been impacted by this.”
Given what we now know about the FBI’s Whitmer operation and how January 6 is bleeding into that case, it’s time for FBI Director Christopher Wray to account for any agents or informants involved with so-called “militia” groups before and during the Capitol protest. It’s almost impossible to believe, considering the deep involvement the agency had in the Whitmer scheme with the same groups, that the FBI had nothing to do with it.