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Washington lawmaker engaged in 'domestic terrorism' by helping plan Malheur refuge takeover, investigation says

The investigation found Matt Shea “participated in an act of domestic terrorism” by helping plan the armed takeover at Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea said he would make "a couple huge announcements" this week in a public post on his personal Facebook page on Saturday.

This comes days after the House Republican Caucus expelled Shea after an investigation revealed that he "participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States."

Shea represents Washington’s 4th District, which includes the area surrounding Spokane Valley. In Saturday's post, Shea compared the investigation to the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and called the investigation a "sham."

"It is not coincidence that the report was released a day after the impeachment vote," Shea wrote in the post Saturday. "Likewise it is not coincidence that this 'investigation' was conducted in a manner strikingly similar to that against our duly elected President."

He wrote in Saturday's post that the people behind the investigation do not "share the same political views". He also said to "look forward to a couple huge announcements early next week."

Earlier this week, he wrote on Facebook:

Like we are seeing with our President this is a sham investigation meant to silence those of us who stand up against attempts to disarm and destroy our great country. I will not back down, I will not give in, I will not resign. Stand strong fellow Patriots. Thank you to everyone for the massive outpouring of support prayers! I will continue to defend the constitution against tyranny and fight to protect our God given unalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the ability to defend the same.

Washington House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox announced the move on Twitter on Thursday night, saying Shea can no longer use House Republican staff or meet with the caucus and his office has been moved.

The investigation has now been passed to the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office.

The 108-page investigation found that Shea “participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States” by helping plan the armed takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016, the website reported.

According to the investigation, Shea played a key role in two other armed conflicts against the U.S. government. The report said Shea helped plan the occupations by doing things like recruiting armed militia members.

The other occupations were the "2014 Armed Standoff against the US Government in Bunkerville, Nevada" and the  "2015 Priest River Armed Conflict" in Bonner County.

The report included other findings that Shea took part in a group chat in 2017 where he “condoned violence and intimidation” of his political opponents and offered to conduct background checks on them.

Shea has been scrutinized this year after multiple investigative reports in the newspaper The Guardian showed chats between Shea and three men proposing surveillance of political opponents and confronting opponents with violence.

Shea also was put under the spotlight after reporting by The Guardian claimed Shea supported a group called Team Rugged, which offered "biblical warfare" training for men. He also faced backlash in Nov. 2018 for releasing a document titled "Biblical Basis for Warfare," which outlined how to fight a biblical war and how to form a "Holy Army."

Shea issued a statement to KREM 2 Thursday evening saying:

“In July the House leadership took the unprecedented step of hiring an outside vendor to investigate lawful communications between a member of the House and citizens of this country. As the subject of this investigation I have been denied any opportunity to review and respond to its results which are still unknown to me.

Due process is the right of every citizen, and should be afforded to all members of the House regardless of their views or party affiliation. When due process is thrown out the window for political expediency we all, as Americans, are in danger. "...no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or matters of opinion." United States Supreme Court in West Virgina Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943).

I want to thank my local community who has strengthened me through their tremendous outpouring of support. I will not back down. I will continue to fight for our shared values that have made this country such a blessing to the rest of the world.”

The investigative documents also state that Shea decline to be interviewed as part of the investigation to give him the chance to respond to the allegations.

"Investigators afforded Representative Shea an opportunity to answer to public allegations made against him in news media and online reporting that became a focus of this investigation, as well as to respond to allegations made by witnesses and documentary evidence collected as of late September 2019," the report reads.

A statement from Wilcox reads:

“House Republican Leadership has suspended Representative Matt Shea from the caucus and removed him from his ranking position on the House Environment and Energy Committee. He will also be removed from his House committees. Representative Shea was given an opportunity to communicate with investigators and chose not to. Allegations this serious, many supported by his own communications and associates, justify this immediate action.

The Chief Clerk of the Washington State House of Representatives has referred the full report to the U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI. If any action is pursued, like all Americans, Representative Shea deserves a fair process and the opportunity to address the allegations made against him directly.

“House Republican and Democratic Leadership have approved the release of the full report. This document is now available for the public to view.”


U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) released a statement on Friday agreeing with Wilcox.

"I support and agree with Rep. J.T. Wilcox’s decision regarding Rep. Matt Shea. I believe Rep. Wilcox is doing the right thing for the Republican caucus. I have repeatedly condemned extremism, no matter its source, and have made clear the violence it inspires has no place here Eastern Washington," the statement read.

The Spokane County Human Rights Task Force denounced Shea after the investigation.

The statement reads:

"We are deeply concerned about the recent report from the Washington State Legislature indicating that Representative Matt Shea engaged in domestic terrorism against the United States and trained young people to start a ‘Holy War.’ The report also indicates that Mr. Shea engaged in political terrorism and joined in discussions that suggested violence against others.

Evidence has also been presented to indicate Mr. Shea has authored documents indicating a “biblical basis for war” which would appear to call for violence against non-Christian males. SCHRTF condemns these kinds of actions in the strongest ways possible. There is no room for this kind of behavior in our community and it is our opinion that such actions based in a possible Christian domination agenda endanger human rights at every level.

We believe it is our obligation to shine a light on the darkness created by those who might victimize others, engage in acts of prejudice or advocate for discrimination, intimidation and violence in any way. It is our opinion that Mr. Shea certainly seems to embrace these patterns of thought and action and we formally call for him to seriously discern his ability to continue as an elected official representing the good people of the 4th Legislative District in Eastern Washington."

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told KREM that the parts of the report he has read so far "pretty much details everything I've been saying for the last six years about Mr. Shea."

He said he also thinks that the report should be sent to the FBI.

Knezovich said he has "no doubt" Shea would possibly lead a standoff if law enforcement attempted to arrested him in the case he faces criminal charges.

"I have no doubt. We’ve already kind of contemplated and speculated what his reaction would be in reference to any move in that direction," Knezovich said.

 "Matt Shea needs to be held accountable and Matt Shea needs to be prosecuted. This man's actions, if not reason, they bordered on treason," he added. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a tweet Thursday night that the report was "disturbing."

Armed Standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada

The investigation found Shea traveled to and engaged in the armed conflict at Bunkville, Nevada in April 2014.

The report states that on April 5, 2014 Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy, his family and protesters got into a stand off with the Bureau of Land Management after Bundy refused to $1 million in past due grazing rights fees over a 21-year period.

Shea asked Liberty for All – Washington Militia leader Anthony Bosworth to go to Bunkerville on April 9, according to the investigation. 

Bosworth would later be arrested in a separate incident for attempting to bring a rifle into the Federal Courthouse Building in Spokane.

The Oath Keepers militia announced Shea was leading a group of state legislators and others to the Bundy ranch, the report said.

Shea later posted on a blog instructing patriots to rally at Bunkerville, the report said.

“Less than 24 hours after his call to arms, approximately 1,500 armed militia members were on site in Bunkerville, Nevada, armed and ready to fight the Federal Government,” the report stated.

Shea was at the standoff on April 10-12, 2014 and spoke in support of Bundy, joined the protest and formed the Coalition of Western States with other legislators and politicians to support land rights issues, according to the investigation.

Armed conflict in Priest River in 2015

The report found that in August 2015 Shea went to Priest River, Idaho for a second armed conflict.

The investigation said an elderly veteran who had suffered a stroke was getting his firearms taken from him. According to the report, a healthcare professional added his name to a database as a person not eligible to purchase firearms. 

The Veterans Administration notified the veteran that a VA employee was coming to his home to “inspect and remove his firearms,” the report said.

According to the report, on Aug. 6, 2015 Shea called for the Patriot Movement to go to the area and stand with the veteran to prevent the VA from taking his firearms.

He later posted that he was on his way to the area, the report said.
The investigation found that 100 people showed up to the veteran’s home to prevent the VA from entering.

Investigators were able to obtain a documents titled “IDAHO DEPLOYMENT – Operation Armed Backyard.” The investigation said it shows an operation plan that offers evidence of planning and coordination that Shea “understood could lead to violence and could develop into a protracted engagement with the federal government as experienced in his earlier Bunkerville standoff.”

Planning of 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover

The investigation determined Shea and other engaged in phone calls and planned the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, directed militias to engage in the conflict and met with armed occupiers despite “warnings from law enforcement and Oregon state elected officials.”

In late 2015, the Bundys and the COWS organization supported ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond who were convicted for arsons they committed on federal land in June 2012, the report said.

The report said on Dec. 11, 2015, the COWS organization, founded by Shea, sent out a press release in support of the Hammonds and accused of an “intentional conspiracy to deprive ranchers and farmers of their property rights throughout the west.”

On Jan. 2, 2016, armed militia members broke off from the demonstration and took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the report said. 

"The action was portrayed as a spontaneous act, but this investigation has obtained information that the armed takeover was meticulously planned in December 2015 by conspirators that included Matt Shea," the report said.

The investigation also found that Shea authored and circulated an operations plan directed for use by militias and COWS members at the standoff. 

On Jan. 4, 2016, the investigation found that Shea sent an email to a select group of 15 private individuals using code names using an encrypted email platform, ProtonMail. 

"Please see the Warning Order attached. Please pay attention to and abide by the classification. This is a military style planning brief. Please use this as a standard form in the future. We received intel right now that arrest warrants are signed and the FBI strike team is preparing to dramatically escalate," the email said in part. 

The investigation found Shea had five goals: 1. Peaceful resolution. No one hurt. Prevent the government from doing something stupid. 2. BLM stands down, issues an apology for all abusive actions 3. Public opinion swayed to our side. 4. Citizens emboldened and educated to rally to change and organize on local level 5. Re-establish legitimate leadership over the Patriot movement. 

Shea then traveled to Burns, Oregon on Jan. 9, 2016, along with COWS State Representative members from Washington, Idaho and Oregon, the report said. 

The investigation also found that, in addition to directing Bosworth to come armed to the conflict, Shea also worked with local politicians to get Shea's group invited to the conflict while concealing they were outsiders.

Sometime after the end of the armed occupation, an online posting was found on Shea's Facebook page saying, "After much prayer I'm afraid violence might be necessary to take out country back."

Engaging in, planning and promoting political violence 

The investigation found Shea’s actions during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge constituted “domestic terrorism,” as defined by the assistant director of the FBI.

Shea also engaged in “intimidation tactics” against a political opponent, according to the report. In September 2012, the report said he posted a photo of himself on his Facebook page while standing in front of the opponents residence, and refused to remove the online photo at the request of the opponent, party affiliates and law enforcement.  

From 2013 through 2019, the report said Shea condoned intimidation by supporters of his political opposition. During a scheduled appearance, the report said a witness overheard Shae say, “If people knew what went on in the Capital, they’d blow it up.” 

Shea also led a "Rally for America" on Sept. 21, 2015 in response to an event by Spokane City Council honoring the Muslim group, Council on American-Islamic Relations. According to the report, a witness who was hired to do security for Shea during the event was told to look for "people of Middle Eastern appearance that might be coming to the rally to commit an act of violence" against him. 

The investigation also found that Shea engaged in counter intelligence gathering and acted in opposition to local, state and federal law enforcement. 

The investigation's risk assessment states that Shea doesn't pose an imminent threat to any person or group, but that evidences "presented a significant threat of political violence against employees of the Federal Government and state and law enforcement, carried out through intermediaries sympathetic to the Patriot Movement."

At one point, the investigation states two men went to a man's home while armed to attempt to intimidate him after he put a sign supporting one of Shea's opponents in his yard.

"In one such case, shortly after putting a yard sign in his yard supporting a candidate not supported by Representative Shea, two armed men openly wearing sidearms knocked on the man's door and asked him if he would consider rethinking his position on his candidate of choice. The man refused and closed the door and the two armed men left with no further incident," the report reads.

They also said that by calling in armed militias to attempt to advance his political goals, he put law enforcement at risk.

"With angry armed insurgents called into action against elements of law enforcement, every situation instigated or planned by Representative Shea carried with it, significant risk of bloodshed and loss of life," the report reads.

The report also says Shea is "more likely than not" to continue to plan and commit acts that carry a "significant risk of bloodshed and loss of life" as they are politically profitable for him.

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