Once upon a time in America, a high-profile federal prosecution imploding amid credible accusations of FBI entrapment would earn wall-to-wall headlines in the national news media. A wife-beating FBI agent who used at least one criminal informant and a dozen more government assets to concoct a plot to abduct a sitting governor—intended to create damaging headlines for an incumbent president right before Election Day—would receive nonstop coverage on cable and broadcast news outlets.
Social media would be flooded with all the juicy details. Names like “Richard Trask” and “Stephen Robeson” would be household names.
But none of that is happening with the Justice Department’s rapidly crumbling case against several men arrested for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer from her vacation cottage in the fall of 2020. Defense attorneys have made a strong case that without the FBI’s guiding hand—and deep pockets courtesy of American taxpayers—the scheme never would have materialized past random social media chatter.
“[The] undisputed evidence . . . establishes that government agents and informants concocted, hatched, and pushed this ‘kidnapping plan’ from the beginning, doing so against defendants who explicitly repudiated the plan,” five defense attorneys wrote in a December 25 motion, one of several defense filings that details proof of an elaborate FBI operation to lure their clients into the abduction caper.
And the bad actors in the government’s script keep finding themselves in more trouble.
Richard Trask, the lead FBI agent on the case, was fired for physically assaulting his wife in a drunken rage following a swinger party last summer. Body-camera footage made public last month shows a shirtless and clearly inebriated Trask being arrested by local police. (He was not charged with driving under the influence.)
A Michigan news station recently unearthed Trask’s Trump-hating rants posted on social media in 2020. “If you still support our piece of shit president you can fuck off,” Trask wrote on Facebook at the same time he was “investigating” threats against Whitmer. Trask said he hoped people who support Trump “burn in hell.”
Two other FBI agents working with Trask at the Detroit FBI field office who handled multiple informants also have been dismissed from the case; FBI agent Jayson Chambers is accused of running a security business on the side and FBI agent Henrik Impola is accused of committing perjury in another case. The Justice Department just notified the court that Trask, Chambers, and Impola are no longer on the government’s witness list.
And just when it looked like things couldn’t get worse for prosecutors, Stephen Robeson, a main informant and convicted felon, has been charged with committing two other crimes while directing the Whitmer kidnapping ruse. Prosecutors last week accused Robeson of acting as a “double agent.” Prosecutors said Robeson “broke an agreement with the FBI by offering charity money to buy weapons to be used in attacks, illegally obtained weapons, and offered personal equipment, including a drone, to aid in committing domestic terrorism.”
Not only is Robeson off the government’s witness list but the Justice Department is fighting to stop defense attorneys from presenting damning evidence of Robeson’s involvement during the trial scheduled to begin in March.
All of this salacious drama should be front-page news. After all, when the Justice Department announced the kidnapping charges in a press release on October 8, 2020, it was a bonanza for the corporate media right before Election Day. The shocking news resulted in widespread condemnation of Donald Trump, blamed once again for promoting violence against his political opponents and emboldening so-called “militia” groups loyal to him.
Whitmer made an emotional statement the day the charges were announced, accusing Trump of encouraging “domestic terrorists” who tried kill her; Joe Biden, quickly siezing on the politically advantageous moment, blasted Trump’s “dog whistles” to violent extremists.
Dozens of articles and columns were posted at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, and other influential publications in a matter of hours. “A thwarted plot could thwart Trump,” two Politico reporters predicted. Mary McCord, a former Obama Justice Department official and perpetual Trump antagonist, had a New York Times column ready to go on the very same day her former employer publicly revealed the plot. (McCord now is advising the January 6 select committee.)
The Washington Post published a guest column by Whitmer herself on October 9, repeating her allegations that Trump was responsible. In fact, Whitmer made the media rounds for days, conveniently playing the victim to Trump’s villain as early voting was underway in her swing state.
“It’s incredibly disturbing that the President of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me, 10 days after that was uncovered, the President is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism,” Whitmer complained on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
CNN ran numerous articles about the thwarted plot. Jake Tapper confronted both Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, and Lara Trump with accusations that the president was responsible for the alleged attack. “Why does he continue to use such heightened rhetoric at a time when her life was literally in danger, according to the FBI?” Tapper asked Lara Trump on October 18.
Considering all the histrionics and allegations that Trump incited a potential domestic terror attack—attempted murder, even!—it seems that these same journalists would eagerly cover all the evidence emerging in the case ahead of the March 8 trial. But the Whitmer kidnapping plot hasn’t just been memory-holed by the national media, it faces what one can only assume is a coordinated and intentional news blackout. Tapper, a copious tweeter, has not tweeted anything about the Whitmer kidnapping ruse since October 2020. CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Politico haven’t published any news about the Whitmer case in months.
MSNBC aired one interview last month on recent defense motions to dismiss the case on grounds of entrapment; former prosecutor Joyce Vance opined that there is a “zero chance” a Michigan judge will drop the federal charges.
The last time the New York Times printed Richard Trask’s name was in October 2020 after he testified that rogue “militia groups” were involved in the kidnapping plot. Ditto for October 2020 mentions in Politico and CNN. Trask’s name is dying in darkness over at the Washington Post, which has never published his name in any Whitmer-related article. Apparently a federal cop who nearly strangled his wife to death after a swinger party then received a slap-on-the-wrist sentence for the assault is of no interest to the otherwise man- and cop-loathing reporters and columnists at the nation’s most influential news organizations.
To its credit, BuzzFeed is the only outlet on the Left that has relentlessly covered the government’s imploding prosecution. BuzzFeed reporters Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison have produced a string of detailed investigative reports worthy of awards despite an obvious political slant.
So, why the media blackout? Because the news media know that any coverage of the FBI-concocted plot to “kidnap” Gretchen Whitmer will bolster suspicions that the FBI played a key if not primary role in the events leading up to, and including, January 6. After all, the Justice Department continually ties the two events together, describing both as acts of “domestic terror” and blaming President Trump for both.
The head of the Detroit FBI field office was promoted to the D.C. FBI field office one week after the Whitimer kidnapping arrests were announced in October 2020; Steven D’Antuono now is in charge of the same office that deployed agents to Capitol grounds on January 6 and is aiding the prosecution of more than 700 Americans arrested for participating in the protest.
It is impossible to report on the Whitmer case without connecting it to January 6. So rather than do its job, the national news media is completely ignoring this sensational story. Too many “insurrectionists” to smear and destroy, apparently.