Investigation Finds Washington State Rep. Involved in Domestic Terrorism

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, speaks at a gun-rights rally at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., on Jan. 18, 2019.  (Ted S. Warren/AP)

(CN) – A Washington state representative has been asked to step down after the release of an investigation that found he engaged in domestic terrorism against the U.S., including the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.

Matt Shea, Spokane Valley-R, was suspended from the House Republican caucus shortly after the report was made public and removed from the three committees he served on.

“Rep. Matt Shea has been suspended from any role in the House Republican Caucus. He should resign,” tweeted Rep. J.T. Wilcox, leader of the House Republicans.

The independent investigation concluded that Shea is a “prominent leader” of the Patriot Movement and participated and planned in three armed conflicts against the U.S. government, including the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

That 41-day armed conflict led to the death of one of the militants and the arrest and indictment of 27 others. The armed group occupied the site in an attempt to force the federal government to turn over federal public land to the states.

The 108-page report contends that Shea helped plan three armed conflicts. The investigation was commissioned in July following report of Shea’s involvement with anti-government militia groups.

“Although this investigation found no evidence that Representative Shea presents an imminent direct threat to any individual or group, considerable evidence was discovered indicating 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,” investigators wrote.

The report also alleges that Shea “condoned violence and intimidation” of political rivals in a 2017 group chat and offered to conduct background checks on them.

The investigation, headed up by the Rampart Group, a firm headed by former FBI agent Kathy Loedler, interviewed 34 people over the course of four months. Shea declined to be interviewed for the investigation.

In a formal statement, Wilcox said 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,” Wilcox said in the statement.

In addition to Malheur, investigators said Shea was involved in the 2014 Bundy Ranch conflict in Bunkerville, Nevada. The investigation also found he participated in a 2015 standoff where anti-government militants blocked the Department of Veteran Affairs from the seizure of guns that belonged to an elderly veteran who had suffered from a stroke.

From 2014 to 2019, the report said Shea encouraged supporters to intimidate “activists, government officials, Muslims, and others who speak or act in opposition to his personal beliefs and political agenda.”

Shea issued a statement prior to the release of the investigation, saying that the communications were legal and vowed to continue his work.

“I will not back down,” he said. “I will continue to fight.”

The investigation also found that Shea “engaged in and supported the training of youth and young adults to fight a holy war.” Shea previously admitted to distributing a manifesto called the “Biblical Basis for War” that called for the overthrow of the government in favor of setting up a theocracy.

“If they do not yield – kill all males,” the manifesto states.

The report has been forwarded to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office, though Shea has not been convicted of any crimes connected to the activities listed in the investigation.

Despite pressure from within his own party to resign, Shea could stay in office and fight attempts to censure or expel him from the House, a move that would require votes from two-thirds of its members.

“In its 130-year history, I am unaware of House members ever having received such a comprehensive and disturbing investigatory report about another member,” said incoming Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins, Tacoma-D, in a statement Thursday afternoon.

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