The answer to this question appears to be that, yes, the FBI did. At any rate, that conclusion follows from this BuzzFeed article.
That the FBI promoted the plot does not provide a moral defense for the people who signed on to kidnap a governor. It may not provide a legal defense, either.
But if the FBI did promote the kidnapping plot, that’s a significant and disturbing fact about the FBI.
Here’s what BuzzFeed found:
The government has documented at least 12 confidential informants who assisted the sprawling investigation. . . .
[S]ome of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. 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 of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.
A longtime government informant from Wisconsin, for example, helped organize a series of meetings around the country where many of the alleged plotters first met one another and the earliest notions of a plan took root, some of those people say. The Wisconsin informant even paid for some hotel rooms and food as an incentive to get people to come.
[A key informant] became so deeply enmeshed in a Michigan militant group that he rose to become its second-in-command, encouraging members to collaborate with other potential suspects and paying for their transportation to meetings. He prodded the alleged mastermind of the kidnapping plot to advance his plan, then baited the trap that led to the arrest. . . .
Last week, the lawyer for one defendant filed a motion that included texts from an FBI agent to a key informant. . .directing him to draw specific people into the conspiracy — potential evidence of entrapment that he said the government “inadvertently disclosed.”
Your tax dollars at work.
The entire BuzzFeed exposé is worth reading. Readers can draw their own conclusions as to whether the FBI should be acting as it seems to have done in this case.
Right around the time the exposé was published, we learned that Richard Trask, an FBI agent at the center of the investigation into the Whitmer plot, has been charged with assaulting his wife. The alleged assault occurred after the couple attended a “swingers’ party.”
It seems the wife didn’t enjoy the experience and told Trask so. As a result, she suffered bloody lacerations to the right side of her head, and had “blood all over chest, clothing arms and hand,” as well as “severe” bruising to her neck and throat.
Trask’s behavior towards his wife has nothing to do with the merits of the case against the alleged would-be kidnappers of Whitmer. But perhaps it provides insight into the kind of people the FBI used to promote the Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy.