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Trial begins for insurgents accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan governor

Four right-wing extremists face life in prison if convicted in the 2020 effort to abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.


Opening statements began Wednesday in the trial of four men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, in 2020.

Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta hatched a plan to abduct Whitmer in response to Covid safety measures instituted by her office, prosecutors said.

Fox, Croft and Harris are also charged with plotting to blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s house in order to slow down authorities' response to her abduction. All of those charges carry a possible sentence of life in prison.

The plot was foiled just months after armed anti-government protesters stormed the Michigan Capitol and after then-President Donald Trump encouraged his followers to “LIBERATE” Michigan and several other states that had Covid safety measures in place. My colleagues Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny reported on the waves of right-wing extremists at the time who took Trump’s tweet to “save your great 2nd amendment” as a call to arms. 

Whitmer rightly condemned Trump, who repeatedly targeted her with his reckless rhetoric, for encouraging “domestic terrorism.”

The defendants were charged after undercover agents embedded themselves among the extremists for months in 2020. As I reported in December, defense lawyers claim their clients were entrapped. But two other men who were involved with the plot have accepted plea deals, and they’re expected to testify that all of them were willing participants in the planning.

A court filing from federal prosecutors ahead of the trial said they “will testify that Fox and Croft initiated the kidnapping plot; that Harris and Caserta voluntarily joined it; and that none of the defendants were entrapped by law enforcement,” according to The Detroit News.

The kidnapping plan marked a glaring example of the violent, right-wing extremism that’s taken hold of the conservative movement, egged on by the president at the time. Many observers have warned that the Whitmer kidnapping plot and the armed protests in Michigan’s capital prove that states are also at risk of Jan. 6-type attacks.

The kidnapping plot trial, and potential convictions, are essential steps in making sure these attackers and invaders never fulfill their antidemocratic goals.