In 2020, a group of armed men surveyed the landscape around the vacation cottage of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, considering how to kidnap her as payback for her COVID-19 lockdown measures. A man identified in government documents as "Big Dan" asked the group, “Everybody down with what’s going on?” Another man responded, “If you are not down with the thought of kidnapping, don’t sit here.” Of the dozen men on that nighttime surveillance mission, four of them including “Big Dan” were either government informants or undercover FBI agents, the New York Times reports. The events of that night will be a key element when, on March 8, five men charged with plotting to abduct the Democratic governor from her cottage will go on trial in Grand Rapids, Mi. The case is one of the most significant recent domestic terrorism cases.
Both the prosecution and the defense are relying on more than 1,000 hours of conversations and other events secretly recorded by informants or undercover agents. Defense lawyers want the case thrown out on entrapment grounds, accusing investigators of “egregious overreaching” by manipulating the accused men to drive the plot forward. Prosecutors will attempt to prove that the suspects were inclined toward the violence from the start. Prosecutors have made an unusual decision not to call to the witness stand three FBI agents with high-profile roles in the investigation. One agent was fired last summer after being charged with domestic violence. Another agent, while supervising “Big Dan,” tried to build a private security consulting firm based in part on his FBI work. All 14 suspects arrested in October 2020 were members of the Wolverine Watchmen or other armed, paramilitary groups. One of the six facing a federal kidnapping conspiracy charge pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against the rest. In recent weeks, the complicated case has become more entangled, with the two sides arguing over what evidence can be presented in court. The informant known as “Big Dan” or “Confidential Human Source-2” will be the star witness for the prosecution.