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The Ballad of Matt Shea

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020 @ 2:29 PM The Ballad of Matt Shea ATTENTION: Major social media outlets are finding ways to block the conservative/evangelical viewpoint. Click here for daily electronic delivery of The Stand's Daily Digest - the day's top blogs from AFA.

Bryan Fischer Radio Host MORE

We’ve seen it happen before. There was Brett Kavanaugh, attacked relentlessly and shamelessly with scurrilous, unfounded, and uncorroborated accusations from decades ago. Then there was Judge Roy Moore, again ambushed with defamatory and manufactured accusations from decades ago, all of which fell apart on closer examination. For the past three-plus years, regressives have been trying to politically decapitate the president of the United States using the same sleazy tactics. 

Now we are seeing it happen again with Matt Shea, a staunch constitutional conservative in the state of Washington. 

After graduating cum laude from Gonzaga Law School, Shea served two combat tours overseas, including eleven months in Baghdad as a company commander. He was awarded a Bronze Star, a Meritorious Service Medal, and a Combat Infantryman's Badge. Following his military service, he turned his attention to public policy. 

For the last decade, Shea has been a rising young star in conservative circles. First elected to the state legislature in 2008, he was immediately named “Rookie Legislator of the Year.” He eventually rose to the number three position in the Republican caucus. From day one, he has been an unflinching advocate for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of natural marriage, the sanctity of private property, and the sanctity of self-defense. 

He has been an unrelenting opponent of government overreach, tax increases, government threats to freedom, and an unwavering, unbending defender of our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. The Washington Conservative Union gave him the “most conservative” lifetime rating among Washington lawmakers. 

Shea was the co-founder of the Washington Family Foundation, now the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He’s an allied attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the leading First Amendment and religious liberty law firm in the country. He is the closest thing Washington has to Thomas Jefferson. 

Meanwhile, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington gave him a “Grade F” and a “0 percent” rating. Haters are gonna hate, and Shea is now directly in the crosshairs of those who make their living off animosity and disinformation. The SPLC and the Talking Snake Media have a vitriolic and seething hatred of Shea and have labeled him a one-man hate group. 

They have falsely called him everything from a racist, a homophobe, an Islamophobe, a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, to a neo-Nazi, the same terms they robotically and mindlessly slap on anyone who threatens regressives and their hold on power. 

Shea has participated in God and Country Celebrations at Marble Country Fellowship, which has been labeled a white supremacist church in the Shea dossier (more about that in a moment), despite the fact the church has an associate pastor (Doug Taft) who happens to be black. 

Well, Matt Shea is not a man the regressive left can allow to roam the earth. So they have trained their heat-seeking missiles on him in an effort to destroy him and wipe him off the face of the political map. And they’re making progress. His own party has turned on him, suspending him from the Republican caucus and treating him as if he is a carrier of the bubonic plague who must be quarantined. 

He has been stripped of his committee assignments and is currently forbidden by his own political “colleagues” from using Republican staff or meeting with the Republican caucus. The leader of the Republican caucus in the House, J.T. Wilcox, has publicly urged Shea to resign. U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represents Shea in Congress, even joined in the pile-on. Shea’s response: “I will not back down, I will not give in, I will not resign." 

At least Wilcox had the decency to say that whether Shea stays in the legislature or not is up to the voters in his district. (He won his last election with 58% of the vote.) 

Shea’s office in the capitol in Olympia is not where it is supposed to be. He has been hastily broomed from his 4th-floor office and dumped in an empty room on the first floor. We could wish that establishment Republicans would train some of their firepower on the enemies of freedom instead of their own troops, but it hasn’t happened yet. 

So what happened? Just as Democrats seized on an innocent phone call President Trump had with the president of Ukraine, so they have tried to push Shea out by seizing on his support of ordinary Americans. 

Democrats spent $120,000 of taxpayer money to hire the Adam Schiff of Washington state, former FBI agent Kathy Leodler, and her husband, Paul Leodler. They launched an investigation into Shea’s support of citizen ranchers. Their report, which you can read here, mostly consisted of reading and regurgitating a lot of leftwing media reports. The report histrionically concludes, “Shea participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States” while promoting “armed conflict” with the federal government. 

All this despite the fact that he has never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime at all. If he truly is a “domestic terrorist,” operating in plain sight in the capitol building of one of our most prominent states, one can only wonder why the FBI hasn’t already sent him off in chains to Guantanamo. Perhaps because they know the “domestic terrorist” charge is a laughable accusation with zero merit. 

James Comey said the Steele Dossier was “salacious and unverified.” The “Shea Dossier” is even worse. 

The Democrat hatchet job dossier - their version of what Nancy Pelosi calls “the wrap-up smear” - charged that Shea “planned, engaged in, and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States government between 2014 and 2016.” The first was the 2014 standoff at the Nevada ranch of Cliven Bundy, the second was Shea’s 2015 support for the Second Amendment rights of a disabled veteran in Priest River, Idaho, and the third was the 2016 standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon over accusations that the Hammond family had committed domestic terrorism by setting backfires that accidentally spilled onto federal land. 

Let’s take them in order. 

  1. The stand-off at the Bundy Ranch, Bunkerville, Nevada 

The Bundys’ cows were confiscated by the federal government and the Bundys themselves were sent to prison for unpaid grazing fees, which according to the Constitution the federal government is not entitled to assess in the first place. 

According to COWS, the explicit purpose of the Coalition of Western States is to “restore management of public lands to the States where it constitutionally belongs.” This is hardly a radical idea, since the Constitution in Article I, Section 8, only authorizes the federal government to exercise authority over land it has “purchased” (not seized) from the individual States, and only with the “consent of the legislature of the State” in which the land is located. Further, the federal government is only allowed to acquire land for “the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards and other needful buildings.” That’s it. 

In other words, the only state land the central government is authorized by the Constitution to own is land needed for military installations. The term “needful buildings” in context seems to refer only to the buildings needed for military purposes, but even if it includes buildings for federal bureaucrats, it clearly does not include rangeland or forest land. The usurpers here were not the Bundys or the Hammonds but a federal government with a cavalier attitude about constitutional limitations on its power. 

While at Bunkerville, Shea met with other state and local elected officials who had also come to support Bundy, including Nevada Assemblyman (“man” used generically) Michele Fiore and Greenlee County, Arizona, Commissioner Robert Corbell.  “I met Matt at the Bundy ranch,” Corbell said in an interview. “And we’re talking state sovereignty and all that, and we said, ‘We’re all elected officials. Why not try and get some laws changed?’” 

So these so-called domestic terrorists went to work, formed the Coalition of Western States (COWS), and by the end of 2014, Fiore, Shea, and other coalition participants had sponsored bills that would transfer federal land back to local governments in six states. 

The Coalition exists to work toward erecting constitutional checks on an overreaching federal government. The elected officials who comprise the Coalition were at these locations to provide public and moral support for ranchers being bulldozed by bureaucrats from Washington. That’s not domestic terrorism, that’s constitutional advocacy. That’s not terrorism, that’s civil rights activism. 

About two months after the Bundy Ranch standoff, the report notes a supposedly sinister meeting between Shea and leaders of the Oath Keepers Militia at a restaurant in Spokane. There he was overheard discussing "militias, weapons, stockpiling ammunition, the Bundy Ranch, Special Forces and snipers." That does make it sound rather sinister. 

But Shea’s firsthand report is slightly different. 

“Yes, I did have dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Oathkeepers founder Stewart Rhodes and several other army and marine veterans. I had chicken fajitas with extra cheese, Spanish rice, no beans, and a water. We discussed several issues including property rights and the developing problems in Washington State, veterans’ outreach, feeding the hungry through churches (and by implication homeless veterans), and a friend’s new toy from Cabelas.” 

They did just did what guys do when they get together: talk about guns, God, politics, and toys. 

Shea noted that Oathkeepers is not a militia but instead a veteran, law enforcement, and first responder organization that seeks to uphold the Constitution. What, pray tell, is Shea doing, hanging with veterans and law enforcement officers who support the Constitution? Sinister indeed. 

  1. The standoff in Priest River, Idaho - crisis averted

As far as the “armed conflict” at Priest River? Here’s what journalist William Jasper has to say about that:

“Matt Shea, together with Idaho State Representative Heather Scott, the Bonner County sheriff, and upwards of 100 local citizens, gathered at the home of a disabled Vietnam War veteran to protest a decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to confiscate the veteran’s firearms. The veteran had suffered a stroke but was not mentally or physically incapacitated. Yes, some of the veteran’s supporters were armed — which was perfectly legal — but there was no ‘armed conflict,’ or anything plausibly resembling such a description.

The media breathlessly said Shea engaged in planning this operation, which he “understood could lead to violence and could develop into a protracted engagement with the Federal government.” That’s a lot of “coulds” in there.

The county sheriff stood with Shea in support of this prayer rally, and in the end, the VA canceled its plans to inspect the veteran’s house and everybody went home. Some Matt Shea-inspired shootout, eh?

I’ve seen pictures of this event. It was nothing but a community prayer rally for this disabled vet in his own yard. Shea is visible on the vet’s front porch leading this front lawn rally. That’s it. That apparently is what amounts to “domestic terrorism” in the fevered imagination of regressives.

  1. The 41-day standoff at Malheur Wildlife Refuge - Hammonds pardoned, The Malheur 7 unanimously acquitted 

The third incident also involved the Bundys, who came to the support of the Hammond family in their tussle with the Bureau of Land Management over accusations that the Hammonds had committed arson while doing backburns to protect their own land from wildfires and invasive weeds. (Australia refused for decades to do backburns to reduce the fuel load. Look what happened to them.) 

Protestors locked themselves inside the Refuge and the standoff lasted more than a month. 

Shea went there, in his own words, on a “fact-finding mission,” not to lead an armed revolt. Apparently some in Washington state prefer legislators who act without finding out all the facts. Even media reports support Shea’s version. “There he and other Northwest lawmakers met with the occupiers as well as with local officials and the FBI.” So even the media says he talked with both sides in this dispute. How else would you pursue a peaceful resolution? 

Many of the Coalition officials who showed up at the Bundy ranch in Nevada also showed up at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to show their support for the Hammonds. COWS officials weren’t there to brandish weapons and lead the charge of the light brigade. In fact, Shea was instrumental, along with Franklin Graham, in negotiating a peaceful resolution to the standoff. 

In flat contradiction to the Shea Dossier, Ammon Bundy, who led the occupation (he held daily press conferences), told The Seattle Times that, although he had communicated with Shea during the lead-up to the takeover and met with him while it was going on, Shea had not helped plan the occupation. 

The Shea Dossier provides zero evidence to substantiate its charge that Shea “planned” or “led covert strategic pre-planning” for either the Nevada or Oregon confrontations. Shea denies he did anything of the sort, Ammon Bundy has repeatedly backed him up, and the feds apparently agree with Ammon or they would have done something to Shea. 

Even the SPLC admits a significant number of state legislators - including Shea - showed up at the scene of the Malheur standoff in support of (note: not to rally to violence) the occupiers. “Support” has a range of meanings, almost all of which are light years short of domestic terrorism. 

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting (not part of the vast, rightwing conspiracy), the out-of-town visitors were there to help end the armed occupation at the refuge.

“I’m just looking at peaceful resolve,” said Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a COWS member who was patched into the meeting by phone.

“That’s our intent,” agreed Shea, a state representative from Washington. “If there’s any opportunity to save life and prevent any further escalation of anything, I think we all agree we should take those opportunities.

So here’s someone the dossier says is a “domestic terrorist” showing up with the goal of aiming for a peaceful resolution and looking for any opportunity to save lives and de-escalate tensions. 

Eventually, at Shea’s request, Anthony Bosworth, a one-time candidate for Yakima County Sheriff, went to the refuge to represent COWS and to stay at the refuge in pursuit of a peaceful resolution. Said Bosworth, “I traveled to the refuge in an attempt to de-escalate the situation…at the request of the Coalition of Western States.” 

Bosworth, Shea’s man on the inside, was successful. He negotiated safe passage for those who wanted to leave, and many took advantage of it. “I was just happy to see the FBI hold up their end and allow for the safe passage of those that wanted to leave.” 

Rep. Fiore talked with the few who still remained inside the refuge for four hours straight and prayed with them by phone. In the end, the holdouts, also encouraged by a phone call from Franklin Graham, gave themselves up. Fiore went with the FBI agents who met the four militants as they surrendered. 

President Trump granted a full pardon to the Hammonds in July of 2018, vindicating those like Shea who had supported them. Said the president, “The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.'' 

The White House notes these troubles were hardly due to “domestic terrorism,” for which they had been sentenced. The 2006 prescribed backburn, intended to burn off invasive species and protect the Hammonds’ supply of winter feed, “leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land.” Steven Hammond himself called the BLM to report the fire, hardly the sign of a guilty man. 

The Hammonds were serving mandatory minimums established for terrorists (!) in the wake of legislation enacted after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The original judge could not bring himself to impose the mandatory sentence, since it was “grossly disproportionate to the crimes,” “a shock to the conscience,” and a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. 

However, the Deep Staters in the Obama justice department appealed the sentence and got a longer one imposed. So the Hammonds were frogmarched back into the penitentiary after they had already served their sentence. Anybody in the Obama administration ever hear of double jeopardy? 

President Trump called the work of the Obama Deep State “overzealous,” as it surely was. Those like Matt Shea who stood by the Hammonds have every reason to feel vindicated. They were on the right side of the Constitution, the right side of justice, and the right side of history. 

(Sadly, the Hammonds’ persecution at the hands of the federal government has just entered a new chapter. At the end of December, an activist, tyrannical federal judge revoked the 10-year grazing permit they’d been granted by the Interior Department - the only agency with the legal authority to make decisions about grazing permits - in the wake of the Trump pardon. What a wretched piece of business. Federal bureaucrats seem determined to get their pound of flesh from the Hammonds even if they have to dig up Dwight’s grave to do it.) 

Here’s the last word on the Malheur Refuge standoff, from the SPLC website: 

A federal jury stunned court watchers on Oct. 27 by delivering a not guilty verdict for Ryan and Ammon Bundy and five other defendants charged in connection with the armed, 41-day-long takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.” 

In the judgment of the jurors, the government had failed to make their cases that the militants had conspired to impede federal workers from doing their jobs. The jury accepted the defense argument that their sit-in was an act of civil disobedience by civic-minded individuals opposed to government overreach. 

In other words, according to the jury, these men are the Martin Luther Kings of the American West. 

Cliven Bundy and his sons, whose stand began when the federal government started seizing their cows, are completely off the hook for good after the federal case against him was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro in January of 2018. Navarro dismissed the case “with prejudice,” which means it cannot be refiled. 

Navarro was steamed to find that federal prosecutors willfully withheld exculpatory evidence during the 2017 trial of Bundy, his two sons, and one other individual. The prosecutors had violated the defendants’ civil rights and violated federal law by hiding evidence from the court that was favorable to the defendants. Judge Navarro said their conduct was “flagrant” and “reckless.” The prosecutors are now under investigation and the special agent in charge was fired. 

So here’s the tally: Cliven Bundy and three others - case dismissed with prejudice. The Hammonds - pardoned. The Malheur 7 - unanimously acquitted of conspiracy and firearms charges. 

The disabled vet got to keep his guns and the feds left with their tails between their legs. I don’t have a trained eye, but that makes the score Matt Shea 4, the federal government 0. Shea is still pitching a shutout while the Democrats try to take him off the playing field altogether as a terrorist. 

The Bundy family itself is now 4-0 against the federal government. Bundy, who had been a political prisoner for 700 days when he was set free, said, “I came into this courtroom an innocent man and I’m going to leave as an innocent man.” 

Shea had absolutely nothing to do with the only incident in which firearms were actually used in any of these so-called “armed conflicts.” This was the shooting death of LaVoy Fincicum, who was shot by federal law enforcement while he was trying to evade a government roadblock. 

The Shea Dossier provided zero evidence to substantiate its charge that Shea “planned” or “led covert strategic pre-planning” for either the Nevada or Oregon confrontations. Shea denies he did anything of the sort, the Bundys back him up, and the feds apparently agree with them or they would have done something. 

The dossier is filled with nothing but page after evidence-free page. Then the investigators drop the phrases “armed conflict” and “domestic terrorism,” and suddenly actual evidence becomes meaningless. Democrats howl and invertebrate Republicans get the vapors at the sound of the mere words. Actual evidence doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is the seriousness of the charge. 

If you do a Google search on Shea, your feed will be flooded with headlines that blare the words “Shea” and “domestic terrorism” - in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, all the major networks, on and on ad nauseum. The wretched Talking Snake Media has shamefully and uncritically accepted the Shea dossier as if God himself had engraved it on tablets of stone. 

It should come as no surprise that the media would feverishly run such headlines atop unexamined stories, so long as the story, whether true or not, tarnishes the reputation of a conservative. A wise man once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” The journalistic corollary is that an unexamined story is not worth reading. 

This should remind us all of Stalin’s henchman, Lavrenty Beria, who once told Stalin, “You find me the man, and I’ll find you the crime.” Point out the guy you want destroyed, and I will take him out, whether he’s guilty or not. And I’ll do it on manufactured charges so it has the patina of legality. 

The federales locked the Bundys up in a federal penitentiary, locked the Hammonds away on charges of “terrorism,” and indicted the occupiers at the wildlife refuge. So federal authorities certainly were not shy about punishing people who engaged in what they believed to be terrorist activities. But they never even tried to lay a glove on Matt Shea. 

The report farcically accuses Shea of training young people to fight a "holy war” by creating a pamphlet called Biblical Basis for War. In the twisted view of Shea’s accusers, it advocates replacing our government with a theocracy and advocates the killing of any and every male who disagrees with it. 

This is just silly. A “theocracy” is a government run by the clergy. You want one of those, you can find it in Iran. What Shea advocates is a government run by freely elected officials who are guided by the Constitution. Hardly the same thing. 

The pamphlet was part of Shea’s examination of the “just war theory,” which is still studied at West Point today. Shea’s study included a review of how ancient nations went to war in the past. It was not a training manual for what young soldiers are to do today. 

Documents that Shea included in his materials on just war theory included such incendiary titles as The Military Code of Conduct (US), Notes on Just War Theory, The Battle of Cowpens, The Battle of Kings Mountain, Col. Glover John’s Observations on Soldiering (WWII) and Observations on the Vietnam War.

CBS reported on a 2017 online chat about responding to left-wing protestors. Said CBS, “there's no indication Shea advocated violence himself, although he offered to do background checks on political opponents.” So in the opinion of CBS, Shea is a politician who does not advocate violence but does recommend doing backgrounders on political opponents, which everybody running for office does all the time.

After 80 pages of bilge and bloviation, the authors actually admit that they “found no evidence” to justify the defamatory “domestic terrorist” label they’d hung around Shea’s neck. “Although this investigation found no evidence that Representative Shea presents an imminent direct threat to any individual or group...(nevertheless) 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.”

Translation: we’ve got nothing. As in zip, zero, nada, zilch. All we have is allegation, rumor, innuendo, slanted reporting, anonymous sources, zero information from witness interviews, and outright fabrication. The report repeatedly cites Wikipedia, which not even high school students are allowed to use in homework assignments. You've got to ask yourself: $120,000 for that?

“Based on evidence obtained in this investigation, it is more probable than not that Representative Shea is likely to plan, direct, and engage in additional future conflicts that could carry with them significant risk of bloodshed and loss of life.”

This discussion of probabilities might belong in betting rooms in Las Vegas, but as sober political analysis, it’s worthless. If we went around locking people up for what they might do in the future, we’d all be in lockup.

What’s remarkable is that the Democrats made haste to turn this report over to the FBI. A report that says there is “no evidence” that Shea represents a direct threat to anybody! What in the world do they expect the FBI to do with that? You want us to prosecute a guy based on your own statement that there’s no evidence against him?

In issuing his pardon, the president said, “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond.” Well, justice is now long overdue for Matt Shea. To paraphrase, “May no weapon that is forged against him prosper, and may he refute every tongue that rises against him in judgment” (Isaiah 54:17). 

 

The author may be contacted at bfischer@afa.net 

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