A controversial Washington state Republican participated in discussions about spying on and engaging in physical violence against anti-fascist activists, private chats published by the Guardian Saturday reveal.
State lawmaker Matt Shea was part of a four-person chat thread with several far-right commentators about “psy-ops” they could wage on local activists a couple of years ago, and he personally offered to carry out background checks on their behalf. Per the Guardian, the men used the encrypted app Signal to carry out the conversation and all four used pseudonyms. (Shea’s was “Verum Bellator,” Latin for “true warrior).
“What BG checks need to be done,” Shea wrote in one message. “Give me the list.”
Though he did not personally suggest committing violence, other participants, including far-right radio host Jack Robertson, did so, in graphic terms.
“Fist full of hair, and face slam, to a Jersey barrier,” Robertson wrote in one chat obtained by the newspaper. “Treat em like communist revolutionaries.”
The messages were exchanged in the lead-up to a supposed “Antifa revolt” that far-right outlets insisted would take place in November 2017. (No such event ever occurred).
Shea did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment. On Saturday, he shared a link to Robertson’s latest podcast episode on his Twitter feed, saying it offered an “expose of the battles being fought by Rep. Matt Shea.”
Ozzie Knezovich, the Republican sheriff of Spokane County, which Shea represents, told the Guardian that the people around Shea were dangerous, and that his “extremism” rendered him unfit to serve.
“I think if a state representative is condoning violence against his constituents then that person needs to be removed from office, and I hope the voters will do that at the next election,” Knezovich said.
Shea first received national attention last year after Knezovich turned over to the FBI a manifesto Shea wrote about the “Biblical Basis for War,” a how-to guide on establishing a conservative Christian theocracy via a murderous campaign.
Though the document surfaced days before the 2018 midterms, Shea was reelected to a sixth term representing his deeply conservative eastern Washington district.
But Shea is no stranger to controversy. Among his greatest hits: pulling a gun on another driver during a 2011 fit of road rage; proposing that eastern Washington secede and form the 51st “Liberty State”; and calling journalists “dirty, godless, hateful people” at an August 2018 gun-rights rally.
The Washington state GOP did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib and the Washington Democratic Party urged the Republican House Caucus to formally expel Shea.
This post has been updated.