Informant provides key details about plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer
A group plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has spoken of abducting her ahead of the 2020 election because they believed she might join President Joe Biden’s administration and suddenly enjoy extra security , an FBI informant said on Friday.
The disclosure was one of many details offered by Dan Chappel, so far the biggest witness in the trial of four men accused of kidnapping conspiracy.
The army veteran explained how he went from simply seeking camaraderie among gun rights advocates to being an undercover agent gaining the trust of extremists and recording hours of conversations. Chappel made key recordings on trips to scout Whitmer’s second home and a nearby bridge where a bomb could distract police during a kidnapping.
The incredible scheme unfolded two years ago when Whitmer, a Democrat, along with governors of other states, angered people by imposing stay-at-home orders and other restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.
Chappel, 35, helped present profane, violent and seemingly incriminating recordings at trial to support the government’s insistence that the group had pledged to snatch Whitmer without any improper influence from the FBI.
READ MORE: Trial underway for 4 men charged in Michigan Governor Whitmer’s kidnapping plot
In August 2020, less than two months before the FBI made arrests, Chappel said he was driving a van with Adam Fox and another man as they took photos and videos of the vacation home of Whitmer in Elk Rapids, northern Michigan.
“That’s it! No question. That’s it!” the jury heard Fox say.
As they ate at a local restaurant, Chappel said he took a photo of Fox, who was drawing a map of the area, including a highway, Whitmer’s house and the location of police departments. The image was presented to the jury.
There was a return trip that night two weeks later, with Fox, co-defendant Barry Croft Jr. and others. Arrived in three vehicles, they divided the missions, testified Chappel. Some walked past Whitmer’s house while others with night vision goggles were parked on a boat launch at Birch Lake.
There have been intense discussions about having a plan in place to snatch Whitmer soon and flee to Lake Michigan, Chappel said.
“The big lake is our best option,” said one registered participant.
Chappel said there were concerns about the timing of national elections in a few weeks.
If Biden is elected, Whitmer “may be able to serve in cabinet” and his security could be upgraded “from state police to potentially the secret service,” Chappel said, summarizing the conversation.
He said everyone agreed with Fox that an attack before the election was best. Chappel said a key final step was to collect $4,000 for an explosive that could be detonated on a bridge near Whitmer’s home to confuse police.
Earlier Friday, jurors heard Croft on a tape say he wanted to put her “on trial”, adding, “Treason is an offense of hanging.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler asked who “she was?”
“The Governor of Michigan,” Chappel replied.
Fox, Croft, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with conspiracy. Their trial could last more than a month.
Chappel spent hours in the witness chair. He described himself as a libertarian and gun rights advocate who was looking for ways to sharpen his gun skills when he found a militia, the Wolverine Watchmen, on Facebook. But things turned sour.
“They wanted to target law enforcement and kill them,” said Chappel, who confided in a law enforcement friend.
“About a week later, I was contacted by the FBI. … They asked if I would stay inside the group and monitor their activity,” Chappel told the jury.
Defense attorneys say informants and agents improperly influenced the four men. They will have the opportunity to cross-examine Chappel next week. Two other men have pleaded guilty to the scheme and will eventually testify for the government.
Whitmer, who is seeking re-election, rarely speaks publicly about the case. She blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case. She said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.