By Zach Hagadone
A bombshell report conducted by independent firm Rampart Group LLC Investigators for the Washington House of Representatives and released Dec. 19 describes eastern Washington Republican Rep. Matt Shea as participating in “domestic terrorism” in a trio of “armed conflicts” with government officials from 2014 to 2016, including the Bunkerville, Nev., standoff between feds and rancher Cliven Bundy; the so-called “gun grab” protest in 2015 in Priest River; and the 2016 armed militia takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Ore.
According to the report, which has made international headlines, alongside Shea in both Priest River and Malheur was District 1A Idaho Republican Rep. Heather Scott, the three-term legislator from Blanchard who has made her own headlines in past years for flying a Confederate battle flag during her election campaign, cutting wires in her statehouse office because she believed them to be listening devices, triggering a special session of the Idaho Legislature after killing a bill that would have brought the state into line with federally mandated child support rules because she and other like-minded lawmakers feared it would lead to the practice of Islamic law, and claiming that white nationalism is “no more than a Caucasian who [is] for the Constitution and making America great again.”
Scott also came under fire from her own party leadership for comments made in 2017 that female legislators only received top committee assignments because they “spread their legs,” earning her a rebuke and the temporary suspension of her own committee assignments.
Her name appeared as many as 20 times in the 108-page Washington House report into Shea, which Rampart investigators claimed took more than four months to compile drawing on 34 interviews of witnesses, including “senior law enforcement officials, elected officials, former associates of Representative Shea, political opponents, other sources of information [including a bevy of news media reports] and concerned citizens.” In addition, the report based its findings on more than 120,000 electronic communications amounting to more than 46 gigabytes of data.
The report goes into great detail on Shea’s activities as far back as 2008, when he was first elected to represent the fourth Washington legislative district, which includes Spokane Valley. Among the key findings, Shea has long propagated anti-government rhetoric, including political violence in the event of establishing a right-wing “provisional government” that would institute a milita-based military; fire all local law enforcement; liaison with sympathetic gangs; revise the U.S. Constitution to sanctify Jesus Christ; ban abortion and euthenasia; and mandate capital punishment for murder, rape, molestation, bestiality, kidnapping, adultery, treason and sodomy.
Documents authored by Shea and titled The Biblical Basis for War and The Restoration, which include instructions for establishing an alternate government, were shared with Scott and others deemed as leaders in the so-called Coalition of Western States (COWS) at a secret meeting in Spokane in August 2016, where attendees went by codenames to avoid scrutiny. Scott’s moniker was listed in the report as “greenbean.” Among the materials circulated at the meeting were practical guides to food storage, ammunition stockpiling, ham radio communications instructions and the recipe for Tannerite-based explosives.
Similar military-style operations guides appeared to have also been put into play during the 2015 incident in Priest River, when Scott rallied others including Shea to turn out in opposition to a planned seizure of disabled veteran John Arnold’s guns, which the Veterans Administration was poised to take after Arnold suffered a stroke.
About 100 individuals, many of them armed, turned up at Arnold’s home in what was called “IDAHO DEPLOYMENT — Operation Armed Backyard,” which was executed following a document shared with protest participants that called for the carrying of concealed pistols by leaders, the identification of “multiple resupply routes,” procedures for evacuation and “contingency resupply,” the implementation of medical services including an aid station and the identification of medical personnel and clergy members, and the setting up of evacuation and emergency communications.
Scott’s role, as directed by Shea, was to identify “patriot bail bondsmen,” presumably in case arrests were made against the protesters.
While the event ended peacefully when VA officials declined to take Arnold’s firearms, report investigators said the “Operation Armed Backyard” guidelines provide “evidence of planning and coordination with others for an operation that Representative Shea understood could lead to violence and could develop into a protracted engagement with the Federal government as experienced in his earlier Bunkerville standoff.”
Likewise, in 2016, the report finds evidence that Shea and COWS leaders including Scott helped attract and swell the ranks of armed militia members who descended on the Malheur refuge in Burns, Ore., with the intent to force a showdown with federal authorities over land management. Furthermore, Shea, Scott and other COWS members — along with Idaho Republican Reps. Judy Boyle and Sage Dixon — traveled to the besieged community ostensibly on a “fact-finding” trip that investigators alleged included the lawmakers misrepresenting their intentions by concealing their affiliation with COWS and sympathy for the occupiers when they met with local political officials and law enforcement. The report claims that Shea, Scott and others collected intelligence on the strategy and tactics of government authorities, then shared them directly with Ammon Bundy and his militia supporters — traveling into the occupation area despite direct instructions not to.
“Evidence shows that Representative Shea conspired with others to plan and carry out the armed takeover,” the report states before coming to its “Finding No. 1,” that, “Representative Shea and the actions of the COWS organization during the armed takeover and standoff at the Malheur Naitonal Wildlife Refuge constitute domestic terrorism.”
Elsewhere in the document, investigators broadened that finding, writing that while Shea does not pose an “imminent direct threat to any individual or group,” “Representative Shea has since 2014, presented a significant threat of political violence against employees of the Federal Government and state and local law enforcement officers, carried out through intermediaries sympathetic to the Patriot Movement.”
What’s more, investigators wrote, “Representative Shea participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States by his actions before and during the armed takeover and standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge” and “presents a present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence.”
Scott did not respond to a request for comment by the Reader, but went on the record Dec. 22 with right-wing website redoubtnews.com. According to the article, which only includes one quote from Scott, the report is Washington state Democrats’ attempt at “smearing” Shea and is a biased document, “when their top four information sources relied upon include the biased Wikipedia, The Southern Poverty Law Center, Portland uber-left journalist writer Leah Sottile [whose acclaimed NPR podcast series Bundyville centers on the 41-day Malheur occupation and 2014 Bunkerville, Nev. standoff with Cliven Bundy] and The Inlander reporter Dan Walters.”
Redoubt News goes on to state that the 2014 Bundy case was dismissed with prejudice, the 2015 Priest River “gun grab” ended peacefully and the 2016 Malheur occupation leaders were acquitted. What’s more, Redoubt News wrote, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the shooting death of Malheur occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who was killed by law enforcement when he allegedly reached for his gun in a tense roadside standoff.
It is unclear what investigation Redoubt News is referring to. A jury in August 2018 cleared the FBI agent involved in the incident of any wrongdoing, while Finicum’s shooting by state police and SWAT members has been declared legally justified. A judge in September dismissed a lawsuit brought by Bundy associates against the FBI, Oregon State Police and others, alleging Finicum’s shooting represented excessive force. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General in October 2018 opened an investigation into several FBI agents, seeking to determine whether they acted with a “lack of candor” in their comments following the shooting. The investigation was administrative in nature, with the DOJ forwarding its findings to the FBI. The results of the inquiry have yet to be made public.
“Are the Washington democrats [sic] and biased media colluding to label lynch duly elected State Representative Matt Shea out of office?” Redoubt News stated. “Is it because they dislike the voters of Rep. Matt Shea’s district or his political beliefs?”
Washington House Republican leader J.T. Wilcox announced Dec. 19 that Shea had been suspended from the caucus and taken off his committees.
“Allegations this serious, many supported by his own communications and associates, justify this immediate action,” Wilcox wrote in a statement.
For his part, Shea has blasted the report and investigation as a “sham,” likening it to the recent impeachment of President Donald Trump. “Secret evidence, the inability to confront accusers, and the denial of any meaningful opportunity to respond is a modern star chamber,” he wrote in a statement published by Redoubt News, adding that Bonner County Sheriff Darryl Wheeler “physically stood with us in Idaho” during the Priest River protest in 2015.
What’s more, he stated, the actions of the federal government at the Bundy standoff in Nevada in 2014 have since come in for criticism by a U.S. District Court judge, who said prosecutors violated defendants’ due process rights while “some individuals cited in the report [as part of the 2016 Malheur occupation] were acquitted of all charges by a jury of their peers in Oregon.”
Amid his chastening by Washington Republican leaders, Shea wrote on Dec. 21 to “look forward to a couple huge announcements early next week.”
While Shea’s position in the Washington House appears precarious, it is unclear what action — if any — Idaho legislators will take regarding Scott’s alleged roles in the “domestic terrorism” activities described in the report. Calls to Idaho Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle went unanswered, though Bedke told the Idaho Statesman on Dec. 20 that he was then unaware of the report.
In response to questions emailed by the Reader, Rep. Sage Dixon wrote that while he hadn’t yet read the investigation in its entirety, “what was reported [on KXLY] sounded like a gross exaggeration of Rep. Shea’s actions, and appeared to have the sole intent of maligning his reputation.” What’s more, he added, “characterizing the protest in Priest River as an ‘armed conflict’ is sensationalizing an event that was already sensationalized beyond what was actually transpiring.”
Dixon told the Reader that he is not a member of COWS and his participation in traveling to Burns, Ore. in 2016 was at the request of an Oregon state lawmaker and spurred in part because there were Idahoans taking part in the Malheur occupation.
“My visit to Burns was enlightening primarily because of the difference between what the media was portraying, and what was actually occurring during the situation,” he wrote. “Because we had Idaho citizens on-site in Burns, I felt it a reasonable duty as a representative to try and diffuse the situation and to avoid a potential death, which, given the situation, I felt was inevitable. Sadly, in the end, I was correct. While I cannot speak to everyone’s individual motivations, I believe each of the state representatives involved had a similar reason.”
According to a press statement, the Idaho Democratic Caucus is looking at the report in order to “ascertain the seriousness of the allegations against Representative Scott and the level of her involvement with Representative Shea.”
“We value the rule of law and if anyone is violating the rule of law then we will encourage the appropriate entities in Idaho to take further action,” the statement noted. “No one is above the law, including state representatives.”
Regardless of the furor surrounding the report, Scott told Redoubt News that she’s holding firm:
“Don’t fall for the bait to divide citizens and don’t take your eyes of the fight to save our Republic,” she said. “I am all in and hope you are too.”
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