‘Conspiracy’ frame-up in Michigan is blow to rights

By Terry Evans
September 12, 2022
Michigan frame-up trial found Barry Croft, seated left, and Adam Fox, next to him, guilty of “conspiracy” Aug. 23. In attack on constitutional rights, FBI undercover agents entrapped them. Rulers’ political police use precedents like this to frame up working-class fighters.
Carole Kabrin/for Michigan RadioMichigan frame-up trial found Barry Croft, seated left, and Adam Fox, next to him, guilty of “conspiracy” Aug. 23. In attack on constitutional rights, FBI undercover agents entrapped them. Rulers’ political police use precedents like this to frame up working-class fighters.

The retrial of two men ensnared by FBI agents in an alleged “plot” to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ended in their conviction Aug. 23 on frame-up conspiracy charges. The scheme never came close to being acted on. The government had failed to convict the two — Adam Fox and Barry Croft — in an earlier trial on the same charges when the jury was deadlocked after acquitting two other defendants.

The government brings conspiracy charges in cases where they want to nail someone but have no evidence they actually did anything illegal.

Democrats, anti-Trump Republicans and the liberal media hailed the conviction. They don’t care if it was a frame-up. They lump the case together with the Democrat-run show-trial hearings in Congress on the Jan. 6 break-in at the Capitol. Their goal is to find a way to bar former President Donald Trump from ever running for office again and, if possible, to put him in prison.

Their real target is the working class, famously described by Hillary Clinton as “deplorable,” who they despise and increasingly fear. Their central weapon in the Michigan case, like in their six-year-long campaign against Trump and the unconstitutional raid at his Mar-a-Lago Florida home, is the FBI, Washington’s political police.

The question for working people in these cases has nothing to do with Trump, or the political views of Fox and Croft. It has to do with defense of fundamental constitutional rights, rights that working people fought and died for, rights that are crucial for our ability to fight for our class interests.

Officials in Michigan claimed Fox and Croft, and those who were acquitted earlier, were affiliated with an “anti-government, anti-law-enforcement” militia, the Wolverine Watchmen.

But this wasn’t a group run by rightist terrorists. Unknown to Croft, Fox and the others, dozens of undercover FBI agents and snitches were members and leaders of the outfit. They led in discussing how to abduct Whitmer, a Democrat, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.

The group’s second-in-command was Daniel Chappel, an FBI informant, who prodded Fox to run surveillance on one of Whitmer’s homes, promoted firing a shot through her window, and offered Fox a credit card with $5,000 on it to get anything he needed. Fox rejected the “offer.”

Another FBI-run spy offered to provide the group with explosives.

Government snoops recorded thousands of hours of the group’s discussions, but only an hour and a half was played to the jury. Fox’s lawyer, Christopher Gibbons, called the judge’s ruling to restrict the playing of the snoops’ tapes “limited and manipulative.” The FBI “shook them up, popped the top and nothing happened,” Gibbons said of the “conspiracy.”

Most of the time, defense lawyers explained, the men were stoned and dreamed up fantastical plans like getting hold of a helicopter to carry out their scheme. No kidnapping ever took place and no date was ever set for one.

Despite this, Judge Robert Jonker instructed the jury not to consider this a case of entrapment by the political police agents as long as the defendants were “willing to commit a crime.” And he told them they could find Croft and Fox guilty “even if it was impossible for them to successfully complete the crime.”

Croft and Fox were convicted for what they thought and said, under urging from FBI plants, not anything they did.

Without mentioning the conviction, President Joseph Biden told a Democratic Party fundraiser Aug. 25 that the “philosophy” of Trump and his supporters was “semi-fascism.” Liberals and the middle-class left throw around charges of “fascism” as if it meant “bad.” They don’t explain that fascism is a bloody movement aimed at crushing the working class when the capitalist rulers become convinced their system is threatened by a working-class-led revolution. This is a far cry from the reality of the class struggle. There is no serious fascist movement — “semi” or otherwise — in the U.S. today.

Conspiracy charges target workers

Thought-control conspiracy frame-ups, like those used to convict Croft and Fox, have long been used to victimize union militants and communists.

Eighteen leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and the Teamsters union were framed up under the thought-control Smith Act, charged with conspiracy “to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government” in 1941. Their actual “crime” was opposing the Franklin Roosevelt administration’s drive to take Washington into the second imperialist world war over markets, resources and profits. 

Other victims of U.S. government conspiracy charge frame-ups include Oscar López, a fighter against U.S. colonial rule in Puerto Rico, and the Cuban Five — revolutionaries imprisoned by the U.S. government for defending Cuba from violent attack by rightist groups operating out of Florida.

An FBI covert operation was key to setting up Croft and Fox. Underhanded methods are necessary when the government deploys its political police against those it believes stand in its way. This was underlined by the release of the “redacted” affidavit used to get a warrant for the FBI raid on Trump’s Florida residence. The core of the document containing Attorney General Merrick Garland’s justifications for the break-in is nearly all blacked out.

This opens the door for liberal media insiders to claim to have the real story, leaked by nameless “people in the know.” Just hours after the affidavit’s release, the editors of the Washington Post  alleged documents Trump held contained material “from surveillance of foreign spies.”

The warrant used in the raid cites probable crimes under the 1917 Espionage Act, a law to suppress constitutional rights that was used to target opponents of Washington’s entry into World War I and supporters of the Bolshevik-led Russian Revolution.

None of what Trump is accused of comes close to what was done by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her presidential run in 2016. She set up a private email server to handle a mass of classified material she appropriated, but her home was never raided and she never faced the threat of charges.

When the FBI discovered the setup, Clinton and her team destroyed tens of thousands of emails, as well as phones and other devices that held government communications, many classified. No FBI investigations were launched. In fact, FBI Director James Comey took it upon himself to foreclose any investigation of the whole affair, after admitting what she did was likely criminal.

No matter who the FBI targets, a capitalist politician like Trump, or people like Croft and Fox, such assaults inevitably set a precedent for government attacks and frame-ups against workers and our unions. In a social system based on the exploitation of workers and farmers by the handful of propertied ruling families, the FBI — their political police — with its spies, informers, provocateurs and compliant allies on the courts, is vitally important for the rulers.

Working people need to speak out against FBI assaults on constitutional rights, no matter who they target. This is key to defending rights we need and will have to use.