A Washington state lawmaker took part in “domestic terrorism” against the United States during a 2016 standoff at a wildlife refuge in Oregon and traveled throughout the West meeting with far-right extremist groups, according to an investigative report released Thursday.
The report prepared for the state Legislature said Rep. Matt Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley in eastern Washington, also found that he trained young people to fight a “holy war,” condoned intimidating opponents and promoted militia training by the Patriot Movement for possible armed conflict with law enforcement.
Legislative leaders were set to announce possible action against Shea on Thursday evening. Democratic and Republican politicians have demanded his resignation.
Prior to the release of the report Shea was defiant.
“I will not back down,” he said. “I will continue to fight for our shared values that have made this country such a blessing to the rest of the world.”
Shea said he has been denied any opportunity to review and respond to the report, prepared by an outside investigator. The report noted Shea declined to be interviewed as part of the probe.
“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,” Shea said.
The investigative team, headed by a former FBI agent and a former law enforcement officer, was hired in July.
The team’s findings, first reported by the news website Crosscut, said: “Investigators obtained evidence that Rep. Shea planned, engaged in, and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States ... in three states outside the state of Washington over a three-year period to include 2014, 2015 and 2016.”
One of the findings was that Shea “participated in an act of domestic terrorism” when in 2016 he visited the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to support its armed occupation by two sons of rancher Cliven Bundy.
Shea also went to Bundy’s Nevada ranch in 2014 during a standoff with FBI agents in a dispute over grazing rights. And in 2015, in Idaho, Shea resisted the planned removal of firearms from a military veteran who was not eligible to have them.
Earlier this year, reports of a 2017 online chat that included Shea surfaced in the Guardian and later were expanded by The Spokesman-Review newspaper. That chat indicated the lawmaker joined a discussion in which others suggested violence against left-wing protesters.
Based on transcripts of the chat, there’s no indication Shea advocated violence himself, although at one point he offered to do background checks on political opponents.
The texts came after Shea, a lawyer who was first elected in 2008, attracted international attention after a document he wrote laid out a ‘’biblical basis for war’’ against gay marriage and abortion. He later said that the document was taken out of context.
Shea has also pursued creation of a 51st state in eastern Washington that would be called Liberty and run on biblical principles.
The Army veteran hosts a weekly show on the American Christian Network and in 2017 complimented members of Team Rugged, a group that one member said provides special-forces-type gun training for young men so they can be effective in Christian warfare.
Shea last year lost a House leadership position after acknowledging he distributed the “biblical basis for war” document that also calls for killing non-Christian males who refuse to follow fundamentalist biblical law.
Shea is popular in his very conservative district and was re-elected in 2018 with 58% of the vote.