No one in national politics plays the role of victim better than Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
In a fawning 3,700-word puff piece published by the Washington Post over the weekend, reporter Ruby Cramer told the embattled governor’s self-described tale of woe: Whitmer isn’t really an ambitious political climber—the daughter of well-connected and wealthy parents, she started running for office in her 20s and was elected to the Michigan legislature at age 29—but rather a misunderstood and underappreciated champion of the people targeted because of her sex, looks, anti-Trump stance, lockdown orders, and pro-abortion views, among other unjustified reasons for “right-wing” derision.
That’s Whitmer’s story, anyway.
Interviewed at the official governor’s summer residence in Mackinac Island, Whitmer and her daughters detailed the horrors of growing up in Clarence Thomas’ America while enjoying a taxpayer-funded getaway. “I live on a college campus,” Whitmer’s oldest daughter, Sherry, told Cramer. (Both daughters attend the prestigious University of Michigan.) “There are people out there who would force me into conceiving. It’s a scary thought.” She then admitted she really doesn’t have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy since she is a lesbian.
But the FBI-concocted plot to abduct and assassinate Whitmer remains a source of great angst for the governor even though she knew about it weeks, if not months, before the “kidnappers” were arrested. At some point during the summer of 2020, Whitmer told her family “there was going to be a story coming out soon about ‘some people plotting to kidnap and kill me.’” That disclosure, according to Whitmer, happened a few months after an anti-lockdown protest at the Lansing Capitol building in late April 2020.
From there, Whitmer’s recollection of the timeline gets fuzzy, if not revelatory. “When the kidnapping plot was announced, it was summer. And people were blowing up your phone, right?” Whitmer asked her daughters during the interview. “Yeah,” replied her daughter, Sydney.
Except that’s not what happened. Law enforcement made the arrests on October 7, 2020—fall, not summer. Whitmer for her part was ready to go the next day with a distraught video message blaming Donald Trump for inciting right-wing “militias” to attack her. The shocking news produced wall-to-wall negative headlines for Trump as millions of Americans were voting for president; Joe Biden took full advantage of the FBI’s latest gift to the Democratic Party, ranting from the campaign trail about Trump’s “dog whistles” to extremist groups.
But three months after the Justice Department failed to win a single conviction in the kidnapping conspiracy, a case the government considers one of its biggest domestic terror investigations in decades, not one reporter has pushed Whitmer to explain what she knew and when she knew it. Further, her public comments and FBI testimony presented during the trial earlier this year indicate Whitmer and her family knew well before the public did and that she was never in danger. Plenty of evidence suggests Whitmer was in on the scheme for months.
Rather than act like a reporter digging for answers, Cramer instead allowed Whitmer to complain about the recent acquittal of two men and a mistrial for two other defendants amid a clear case of FBI entrapment—a key detail Cramer omitted from her story.
“It was awful,” Whitmer told Cramer about the verdicts reached by her own constituents in April. “We’re supposed to expect this now? People plot to kidnap and kill a governor?”
Whitmer also complained that the attack on her is described as a “kidnapping plot” instead of an “assasination plot,” as the media correctly describes the near-miss murder of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last month. “Does anyone think these kidnappers wanted to keep me or ransom me?” she whined to Cramer. “No. They were going to put me on trial and then execute me. It was an assassination plot, but no one talks about it that way. Even the way people talk about it has muted the seriousness of it.”
What has “muted” the “seriousness” of the plot isn’t Whitmer’s gender but the fact at least a dozen FBI undercover agents and informants working with FBI handlers at multiple FBI field offices in the eastern half of the country stitched together the random group of innocents who did not know each other before the government got involved.
And speaking of mute, one of Whitmer’s former top aides is now very tight-lipped about the plot as the Justice Department prepares to retry the remaining two defendants, Adam Fox and Barry Croft, Jr., in Grand Rapids next month.
Mark Totten served as Whitmer’s chief legal counsel until he was confirmed as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, the office handling the case, in late April—just a few weeks after the jury handed prosecutors a humiliating defeat in court. Shortly after his office announced plans to retry Fox and Croft, Totten, whom Whitmer praised as being on her team “since day one,” recused himself without explanation.
Defense attorneys want to know why—but the Justice Department is ignoring Freedom of Information Act requests to see Totten’s recusal memo as well as a required letter by Attorney General Merrick Garland appointing replacement counsel within the office. Joshua Blanchard, the public defender representing Barry Croft, filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in June to compel production of the documents.
That won’t happen before the August 9 trial date, so Blanchard and Christopher Gibbons, attorney for Adam Fox, now are asking the judge to disqualify Totten’s office altogether. While admitting the motion is rare, Blanchard and Gibbons argued, “it is also rare that the United States Attorney will have previously personally represented the alleged victim of a high-profile kidnapping conspiracy.” It’s also rare that “the United States Attorney himself has determined that he must be recused from involvement in the prosecution,” the pair wrote in a July 8 filing.
Without an explanation from the government, defense counsel speculated as to the reason for Totten’s recusal. “It is reasonable to assume the disqualification is based on conflict relating to Mr. Totten’s longstanding professional relationship with the alleged victim,” referring to Whitmer.
It also is reasonable to assume Totten, like Whitmer and her family, knew of the kidnapping caper months in advance. How did they know? Did the FBI alert them? Which agents or FBI officials did Whitmer’s office communicate with before the arrests were announced on October 8, 2020? How deeply were Whitmer and her aides involved?
Not only is the media uninterested in those answers, the Justice Department is hellbent on concealing Totten’s foreknowledge from the public and, presumably, from jurors in the next trial. Prosecutors also want to prevent the jury from learning the outcome of the first trial, arguing the verdicts are “hearsay” and “irrelevant.” (Blanchard and Gibbons suggested at the last status hearing they might call the exonerated men to testify for the defense.)
Whitmer, for her part, can spin the story as hard as she wants but that doesn’t change the facts; the FBI entrapped innocent men to validate the agency’s false claims that “domestic violent extremists” loyal to Trump pose a dire threat to the country.
The governor, up for re-election in November, is far from the victim here. In fact, it appears that Whitmer, and possibly one of her top advisors, were accomplices not innocents.