Friday, September 30, 2016

Rev. Graham recalls tense ending to Malheur standoff

The Rev. Franklin Graham testified Thursday that he agreed to help FBI agents negotiate with 4 holdouts during the final days of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff because he wanted “to help calm the situation.” Graham, the son of well-known evangelist Billy Graham, said the FBI called him on January 28 after Jeff Banta requested to speak with him. “I wanted to help calm them,” he said. “I also wanted the FBI to take a deep breath.” Graham said he had no relationship with any of the occupiers before they started talking on the phone every day at the beginning of February. He would ask each of them about the weather or what they ate that day and often led them in prayer. David Fry’s conversations often revolved around theological issues and Graham would listen as Sean Anderson expressed his strong opinions about the Constitution. Graham said those phone calls helped him establish trust with the group. “They were afraid and I was afraid for them,” Graham said. “This wasn’t a game, and I wanted them to understand that.” Graham testified the 4 feared they would be arrested if they left the refuge, and explained that they somehow got “left behind” as others took off following LaVoy Finicum’s death. On the night of February 10, the FBI called Graham to say they were putting “pressure” on the holdouts to surrender. Graham flew his own plane from North Carolina and landed in Burns the following morning to help with negotiations. “Guys, I’m here,” he said through a loudspeaker. “Listen to what the FBI is going to say to you… come out safely.” Sean and Sandy Anderson were the first to surrender. Graham recalled seeing them emerge from the refuge with their hands clasped together in the air, holding an American flag. He told them they “did the right thing.” Banta came out next, but Graham was concerned to hear the FBI say Fry wasn’t going to leave. Sandy took the loudspeaker and assured Fry they were treated with respect and that the group was waiting on him. Nearly 30 minutes passed before Fry surrendered. Graham wrapped his arms around him and said, “I’m so proud of you.” Graham credited God with getting him through the ordeal. As the holdouts were taken into custody, Graham said he noticed negotiators had tears running down their faces. They were “thankful to God that no one was hurt,” he said at the end of his testimony, adding that he didn’t expect that from the FBI. The trial resumed Thursday despite a motion from Ammon Bundy’s lawyers seeking a postponement until a court rules on their appeals...more

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