"Representative Shea presents a present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence."
Those are the final words from the independent investigative team hired by the Washington state House to investigate Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea. In a report made public today, the team concluded that Shea already participated in three armed conflicts, and that with his deep involvement in planning and supporting the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff, it concludes that Shea "participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States."
Investigators from the Rampart Group spent four months digging into Shea, tasked with determining whether he'd promoted or participated in political violence or had ties to violent political groups. They interviewed 34 witnesses, including law enforcement officials, elected officials, former associates and political opponents. They dug through 120,000 electronic messages.
In their report, the investigators don't hold back from condemning the path that Shea has chosen. He's a lawyer, they point out. He has ways to "peacefully redress grievances through the courts but chose to lead his followers to stand in a physical confrontation at risk of bloodshed and loss of life."
In light of the report, the Washington state House can take a number of possible actions against Shea, including issuing public censure, removing him from committees, or kicking him out of the Republican caucus. To completely remove him from office would take a two-thirds vote of the state House.
Much of what is contained in the report has already been reported. A full 17 pages are references to reporting by numerous news outlets, including Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Spokesman-Review, the Inlander and the Guardian. Remember, as you're reading the report, much of this was already out there when the Washington state GOP put Shea in a position of leadership in 2017. Much of it was already out there last year, when U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers readily welcomed his endorsement.
But the Shea report reframes and adds to the narrative. It digs into the details of Shea's involvement in multiple armed anti-government confrontations, including Shea recruiting militia members, sharing military-style battle plans with armed insurgents and feeding intel to occupiers of a government building.
It shows the effort that Shea takes to cover his tracks and hide his activities from anyone who may be surveilling him. It concludes that he previously lied to state investigators during a 2016 ethics complaint about his involvement in the Oregon wildlife refuge standoff.
It features him explaining to one ally in a text message: "we do not owe Pagans the truth." It details his ties to the anti-government Patriot Movement, regional militias and groups like the anti-communist John Birch Society.
In many ways, the impetus for the investigation can be traced back to one man: former Shea ally Jay Pounder, who, for over a year, has been leaking Shea documents and violent chat transcripts to the media and the public.
"Representative Shea's activities appear to meet the definition of political violence and, when viewed holistically, these activities appear to have been successful," the investigators conclude.
But not only do the investigators conclude that Shea is promoting — and has been involved with — political violence, they suggest that all the media reports and controversy that Shea started have simply enhanced his standing within the right-wing Patriot Movement.
"Given that Representative Shea has suffered no negative repercussions to his actions and that he ascertains political power from creating radicalization nodes such as each of the armed conflicts he has either instigated or exacerbated," the investigators write, "and each such radicalization node grows the Patriot Movement and enhances his standing in the Patriot Movement and his political power, it is more probable than not that he will continue with his activities of creating and or engaging in conflicts that benefit him politically."
And so, if anything, Shea has harnessed the outrage toward him to bolster his image as a persecuted hero. In a statement from his attorney, Shea claims that he was "denied any opportunity to review and respond to the results," without mentioning he refused to speak to the investigator.
Instead, he's used the investigation in rallies and podcasts and church services, throwing it out as red meat to further whip up his supporters.
“Every day I get to wake up and I get to be on the front line in the battle of good and evil,” Shea said on the Church and State podcast today.
"This is a coup," Shea says. "This is an attempt to overthrow duly elected leaders who are standing up for the Constitution and who are standing up for the Bible, candidly."
In a comparison that both people on the far left and the far right might agree with, Shea sees himself as a lot like President Donald Trump.
"It’s not about me, it’s not about President Trump," Shea says. "It’s about everybody that voted for me, that voted for President Trump and all the ideas and ideals we fight for. That's what they really are going after. They’re trying to destroy that and demoralize the element of this country that still believes the Constitution means what it says and the Bible means what it says. "
In his statement, Shea promises he will "not back down" and that he "will continue to fight for our shared values that have made this country such a blessing to the rest of the world."
Here's just a sampling of what the report discovered:
Matt Shea rallied his allies to the Bunkerville standoff
Shea posted on a website of the III%, a militia-connected organization, a call for "Patriot Movement" members across the country to come to the armed standoff of rancher Cliven Bundy in Nevada. But he went even further than that. Shea sent a III% leader Anthony Bosworth down to assess the need for troops. He rallied other elected officials to create a strategy for leadership over "future Patriot Movement armed resistance against the federal government." And then he was seen at a Spokane restaurant speaking with members of the Oathkeepers' militia discussing the Bundy Ranch snipers, stockpiling ammunition. They also passed around a map and a night-vision scope.
Matt Shea rallied armed resistance to stop the government from taking an Idaho veteran's guns
When a veteran was at risk for losing his gun because it had been determined that he couldn't own firearms, Shea called it "bureaucratic terrorism" and participated in planning "Operation Armed Backyard," where armed militia members blockaded the veteran's home to stop the government from taking the gun.
Shea helped plan the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff — and gave armed occupiers intel on law enforcement activities
Starting in late 2015, the report concludes Shea "engaged in conversations with Ammon Bundy and other militia members in the planning and preparation" of the 2016 standoff in the Oregon Wildlife Refuge.
"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 include Representative Shea," the investigators write.
Shea published a press release to call for militia members to rally in Harney County in support of ranchers Dwight and Steven Dwight Hammond. He helped prepare a document suggesting that the local Harney County sheriff would suffer "undefined consequences'" if he didn't meet a list of demands.
"We will bring more people to town than your deputies can handle," Sheriff Dave Ward recalls Shea's group threatening.
And it was Shea, the report says, who created what he identified as a "military-style planning brief" called "Operation Cold Reality" about how leadership could support the armed wildlife refuge standoff, distributing it using code-names and encrypted email. His goals included throwing up obstacles to "violent action by the government" and re-establishing "legitimate leadership over [the] Patriot Movement."
He signed one of his messages, "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."
Shea called the Bureau of Land Management "terrorists" and warned his allies that the government wanted to "escalate to a full-blown violent retaking of the refuge."
He and other allies then met with Oregon and federal law enforcement officials and then shared the intelligence he'd gathered at a meeting with the armed occupiers.
And despite "warnings of extreme danger and against the will of law enforcement and other Oregon state elected officials," Shea personally visited the refuge. He sent down Bosworth, who posted on Facebook about removing FBI surveillance cameras in the refuge.
And afterward, Shea wrote in a since-deleted Facebook comment: "After much prayer, I'm afraid violence might be necessary to take our country back." Another commenter replied, "We are ready, Captain. Tell us what to do."
The investigators concluded that Shea lied to state ethics investigators by claiming that he'd been personally invited by elected officials and that he hadn't been asked to stay away.
Matt Shea warned his allies to be on the lookout for federal and state law enforcement and shared their home information.
Shea sent his allies, including Jay Pounder, a 250-page long document that had apparently come from "deep" on the web, that Shea said he could use to "validate and check out any agents from law enforcement agencies who may attempt to contact us."
Shea and his allies would use code names and encrypted email services, according to the investigation. But he also would give their meetings generic-sounding titles like "family picnic" and tell his allies to do the same to avoid "federal monitoring systems like Google" from identifying him.
The packet also included the Biblical Basis for War, the document that advocated things like "assassination to remove tyrants is just, not murder" and "Restoration," an apocalyptic-fiction inspired document that outlines, according to the investigation, Shea's view of how Restoration "would look after the collapse of the United States."
The investigator doesn't believe Shea's claim that the Biblical Basis for War were mere sermon notes.
Matt Shea and his allies practice drills in case the federal government starts "rounding up Patriots and Christians."
Those included military-style training exercises based at the house of "Patriot pastor" Shahram Hadian to practice the evacuation of Matt Shea personally in an emergency.
Marble, a controversial Stevens County church that spun-off from the Christian Identity Movement, has become a particularly scrutinized group. The investigator notes that, in 2001, a psychologist wrote that Marble "contains many elements that are consistent with cultic control."
Matt Shea tasked Jay Pounder to dig into the background of his political opponent, Josh Arritola, in 2014.
Shea also tasked Pounder with providing security during his debate with Arritola.
Matt Shea suggested people would blow up the Washington state capital if they knew what really went on
At a 2013 Marble Community Fellowship God and Country celebration, Matt Shea allegedly said "if people knew what went on in the Capital, they'd blow it up," to shouts of support from the audience.
Bosworth, one of Matt Shea's security men, racially profiled Muslims during a Spokane City Council protest
At a 2015 rally against the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Matt Shea's security man Anthony Bosworth allegedly said he would be looking for "people of Middle Eastern appearance" who might be coming to commit an act of violence.
"Representative Shea has also used fear to intimidate those who directly oppose candidates he supports," the investigators write.
In one incident, after one person put a sign supporting Matt Shea's political opponent in his yard, "two armed men openly wearing sidearms" knocked on his door and asked him to rethink his position. The man refused. The report also mentions the incident where Shea photographed himself standing in his then-opponent Amy Biviano's yard, and then refused to take down the photo, even after Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich asked him to.
"Fear is an often used tactic by Representative Shea to develop and grow his political support," the investigators write. Some of that is rhetorical, painting scary and often false stories about Syrian immigrants and Antifa communists to generate support. And he uses fear in another way as well, the report concludes.
"Intimidation and the ever-present threat of force are powerful tactics used by Representative Shea in the achievement of his political goals."
Read the entire report here: