Thursday, March 17, 2016

GOP Politicians Planned And Participated In Key Aspects Of Refuge Occupation


On a cold January morning, a posse led by a former Army company commander named Matt Shea rolled into the Harney County Courthouse and wanted to speak to the sheriff.

But this wasn’t a group of militants, or outlaws. They were state lawmakers from four western states, including Oregon. Most of them were members of a group called the Coalition of Western States, or COWS.

They were hoping to talk directly with Sheriff David Ward and convince him to support the armed militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, COWS members would meet that day with a Harney County deputy and a sheriff from another county, an FBI agent and other local officials.

The out-of-town visitors presented themselves as wanting to help understand and, if possible, 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.”

Oregon Republican State Rep. Dallas Heard also attended the meeting, however he says he is not a member of COWS.

The 90-minute conversation was recorded by participants at the Jan. 9 meeting and given to OPB.
On the recording, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty thanks the group for their concern, but asks them to stay away from the refuge. Grasty said the militants were showing signs of fatigue and defeat, and worried that a visit from lawmakers would reinvigorate Ammon Bundy and the rest of the occupiers.

“If we’re getting close (to a resolution), and you embolden Bundy by your presence, and this runs on for weeks and months, it will be awful in this community,” Grasty said.

The FBI agent also asked the lawmakers not to visit the refuge.

Those pleas fell on deaf ears. And Grasty’s prediction came true.

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