GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Four months after one of the most closely watched domestic terrorism trials in recent history ended with zero convictions, federal prosecutors are trying again to convince Michigan jurors that there was a plot in 2020 to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, set off explosives and foment a civil war.
But to prove their case against the two defendants, Barry Croft and Adam Fox, prosecutors will have to persuade jurors to trust a sprawling F.B.I. investigation that embedded several federal operatives in the group, including an informant who was named second-in-command of a militia and an undercover agent who offered to provide explosives.
Building that trust was already hard, as jurors showed in April when they acquitted two men and failed to reach verdicts for Mr. Croft and Mr. Fox. But it may be more difficult at a time of even higher political tension, with Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, campaigning for re-election and F.B.I. agents searching former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home this week, a move that many Republicans have decried as a weaponization of the Justice Department.
pleaded guilty to kidnapping conspiracy in the Michigan case and agreed to testify, problems with the investigation were emerging. One F.B.I. agent was fired last year after being charged with domestic violence. Another agent, who supervised a key informant, tried to build a private security consulting firm based in part on some of his work for the F.B.I., according to a BuzzFeed News report.
Jurors did not hear the details of those incidents at the first trial this spring, and it seems unlikely that much of that will come up this time. There is also another elephant in the courtroom — the acquittals this spring of two former co-defendants, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.
Defense lawyers mentioned Mr. Harris and Mr. Caserta by name on Wednesday but did not explicitly say that they had been acquitted. Prosecutors did not bring them up.