Gretchen Whitmer kidnap: Who is Richard Trask? FBI agent probing plot charged with assaulting wife
An FBI agent originally credited with helping foil a plot to kidnap and murder Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is reportedly facing an assault charge, thereby complicating one of the most discussed cases of extremism in the country.
Special Agent Richard Trask, 39, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was charged on Monday, July 20, with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, less than murder, after a domestic incident with his wife the previous day. The charge is reportedly punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to The Detroit News.
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Following arraignment in the 8th District Court of Kalamazoo, Trask was released from custody on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. His arrest came at a critical stage of the ongoing case against five men charged in federal court with plotting to kidnap Whitmer. Last week, defense lawyers rocked the foundation of the high-profile case as they suggested a second FBI agent was attempting to sabotage the defense.
Who is Richard Trask?
Richard Trask, 39, has worked for the FBI since 2011. He testified in federal court about the Whitmer investigation and served as the FBI's public face in the case. The veteran agent is said to have worked on a wide range of cases involving terrorism, espionage, and domestic extremism probes. “It’s the last thing you want for a major case like this,” said Andrew Arena, a former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit office. “Any time you give the defense any ammunition it's not good.”
Meanwhile, FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider said the bureau is cooperating with the prosecutor's office. "In accordance with FBI policy, the incident is subject to internal review, and I cannot comment further at this time," she said in a statement.
According to Arena, that review would include an investigation by the bureau's internal affairs. “Depending on the severity, it could be a suspension until things are ironed out one way or another,” he explained.
According to social media posts and state business filings obtained by The Detroit News, Trask opened a gym at his rural property in Oshtemo Township near Kalamazoo, where he offers CrossFit training. The special agent is said to have filed paperwork for BCB Health & Wellness last year, and his Instagram account has several photos of him posing shirtless and exercising. At the time of writing, the account had been made private.
Trask is prohibited from possessing a firearm, as part of his bond conditions. “If you can’t carry a weapon, then you’re not going to work as a street agent,” Arena explained. “He’s going to be suspended or put on restricted duty.”
Trask's arrest came one week after the defense team offered a glimpse of their strategy in the kidnapping plot case. According to court filings, defense lawyers attacked the work of FBI agents and claimed informants had entrapped men accused in the conspiracy. The five men accused in the plot are currently awaiting an October trial in federal court in Grand Rapids. One defendant reportedly asked US District Judge Robert Jonker to move the trial out of Michigan, arguing that the media coverage had "corrupted the potential trial atmosphere."
In January, Trask testified in federal court against Delaware resident Barry Croft, accusing him of being the group's bomb maker. Trask said Croft was the national leader of the 3 Percenters, a small militia that was allegedly part of the January 6 US Capitol riots. Trask provided context about several undercover recordings that portrayed Croft as a violent extremist. On the other hand, defense lawyers portrayed their clients as tough talkers who never carried out any kidnapping plot but were simply exercising their First Amendment rights.
“Croft was saying he was granted permission from God to commit murder, correct?” Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler asked Trask in court. “Correct,” the FBI agent responded.
The arrest of an FBI agent credited with helping thwart a plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer complicates one of the most closely watched cases of violent extremism in the country https://t.co/OHC7naEYFz via @detroitnews pic.twitter.com/PiZln7L9Te— Robert Snell (@robertsnellnews) July 19, 2021
Trask was expected to play an instrumental role in the October trial of the five men accused in the Whitmer plot. “In an investigation like this, you’re always trying to ensure you have more than one person who can testify about that piece of evidence,” Arena said. “So if something happens, you’ve got a backup.”
Meanwhile, the defense has also raised concerns about the other lead investigator, FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola, accusing him of trying to sabotage defense teams. Joshua Blanchard, a lawyer for co-defendant Barry Croft, revealed a recording that reportedly had Impola plotting "disarray and chaos" against defense lawyers, whom he labeled "paid liars".