SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A Republican state lawmaker in Washington is striking back at critics who say he should resign for appearing to support spying on political opponents.The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday it had obtained the contents of chats from 2017 involving Rep. Matt Shea and three other men proposing to confront leftists with a variety of tactics, including violence, surveillance and intimidation.
Shea turned around and walked away when asked for a comment at the state Capitol in Olympia on Monday. He also did not respond to a telephone message and email sent by The Associated Press.
All of the men used screen aliases. The Guardian said it confirmed the identity of those in the chat, including Shea, by cross-checking phone numbers attached to the Signal accounts.
Apart from violence, the men extensively discussed tactics of surveillance and intimidation. In response to a request in the chat for background checks on Spokane residents, Shea volunteered to help, going on to name three individuals, the newspaper reported.
The newspaper's report prompted Democrats in Washington state to demand Republicans expel Shea, who is from Spokane Valley, from their caucus.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib decried Shea on Twitter, saying, “Obtaining background checks on people for the purpose of planning violence against them is a crime, and even offering to do so is clearly 100% unacceptable in the Legislature.”
“I call on House Republicans to do the right thing and eject Matt Shea from their caucus,” Habib wrote this weekend.
Gov. Jay Inslee, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said Monday that Shea’s behavior had crossed a line.
“He participated in conversations that advocated for violence against those with dissenting opinions,” Inslee said. “He is actively conspiring with others to surveil and target political activists.”
The state Democratic Party called for Republicans to expel Shea.
Shea posted a statement on his personal Facebook page late Monday in which he called The Guardian article "an extremely misleading hit-piece."
Shea added: "I will not back down. I will not quit. I will not give in. Ever."