Washington Republicans Must Answer for Their Ties to Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism

Planned kidnapping and coup attempt in Michigan highlights importance of highlighting and combatting right wing political violence

For Immediate Release | October 8, 2020

SEATTLE —  This morning the FBI announced that it stopped an attempt to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the state government: 

The FBI says it thwarted what it described as a plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and federal prosecutors are expected to discuss the alleged conspiracy later Thursday.

The alleged plot involved reaching out to members of a Michigan militia, according to a federal affidavit filed Thursday. 

The court filing also alleges the conspirators twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer’s personal vacation home and discussed kidnapping her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin to stand “trial” for treason prior to the Nov. 3 election.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”

It’s possible that the right wing conspirators were at least partially motivated by President Donald Trump’s calls over social media to “Liberate Michigan!” while Gov. Whitmer was one of the governors getting national attention for the COVID safety measures being put in place in the state to protect the public. 

Washington state has its own troubling groundswell of right-wing political violence. Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp has used his campaign funds to support a man named Peter Diaz who runs an organization called American Wolf. Diaz and American Wolf are an armed right wing vigilante militia who bring guns to protests with the goal of stoking conflict and violence, despite called from local law enforcement for them to stay away. 

When asked about the Culp campaign’s ties to militias like American Wolf, both the Culp campaign and Caleb Heimlich, chair of the Washington State Republican Party, refused to answer questions. 

Culp has also held events with Matt Marshall, a leader in the Three Percent militia. The Three Percent militia is an anti-government conservative militia that associates and works with white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and the American Guard. 

Of course, Culp is not the only Washington state Republican with ties to right wing political terrorism. Republican legislator Matt Shea was found in an investigation to have planned domestic terrorism, including planning and preparing for the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and drafting documents like his “Biblical Basis For War” which including instructions such as “If they do not yield – kill all males.”  While Shea is not running for re-election this year, the House Republican caucus opposed a move to expel him from the legislature and he is currently serving as a Republican state legislator. 

In 2019, Culp and Shea held a joint event calling for the secession of Central and Eastern Washington and forming a new state called “Liberty”. And several of Shea’s fiercest supporters, Rep. Jesse Young of Gig Harbor and Rep. Vicki Kraft of Clark County, are running for re-election this year.

The FBI has warned of increasing domestic terrorism from right wing political militias and senior officials in the US Department of Justice say that “white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.”  71 percent of the 387 “extremist related fatalities in the United States” from 2008 to 2017 were committed by members of far-right and white-supremacist groups, according the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“Washington state Republicans need to be held accountable for and answer questions about their ties to right wing political violence and domestic terrorism,” said Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party. “This is a huge and growing problem and it’s shameful and scary that the standard bearer for the Washington state Republicans has contributed to it. This isn’t something you can ‘both sides.’ This is actual documented terrorism, in our country.”