A Nevada Republican lawmaker who's running for U.S. Congress said law-abiding Americans can be justified in taking up arms against government officials.
Michele Fiore, who lent her support earlier this year to militants occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge, said armed confrontations with the government were an acceptable response in some circumstances, reported the Las Vegas Sun.
“If the government is going to point a gun at me, I’m going to point one right back,” Fiore said. “If you’re going to shoot me, I’m going to shoot you back.”
Fiore defended the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve by a group of armed militants who were attempting to undo government ownership of public land, saying the armed group's actions were completely lawful.
“It was abandoned," she said. "No one was there, so they basically kind of said, ‘This is a great place to camp and make our statement.’”
The government, however, disagrees. Federal prosecutors have charged 26 of the militants in connection with the occupation, and some of them are charged in a 2014 standoff with federal agents at a Nevada ranch owned by Cliven Bundy -- another Fiore friend who faces numerous charges.
Fiore accused law enforcement agents of terrorism by pointing weapons at the armed militants during a Jan. 26 traffic stop and arrest that led to the shooting death of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, who tried to outrun a roadblock and reached twice for a weapon after leaving his crashed vehicle.
The lawmaker also described the government's actions during the Bundy ranch standoff as "borderline" terrorism -- in comparison to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the mass shooting last year in San Bernardino, California.
She also described the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay as terrorism by elected officials, the newspaper reported.
Harney County Sheriff David Ward, who investigated the occupation, said Fiore knew for at least two months about a protest that led to the takeover of federal property.
Ammon Bundy, the rancher's son, arrived with a brother and other militants at least a month before they rallied in support of two local ranchers, Dwight and Stephen Hammond, who were ordered to finish serving their sentence for illegally setting fires on public land.
Ward told the Sun that the Bundys and other militants threatened "a massive protest," and the sheriff asked Fiore to defuse the situation after it became clear they respected her.
“They were name-dropping her like a job reference,” Ward said. “But she couldn’t offer any help or suggestions.”
She helped negotiate the surrender of the last four holdout militants last month during a tense cell phone call as she raced across Oregon.
Fiore's opponents, and some of her fellow Republicans, have slammed her involvement in the occupation and standoff.
Jesse Sbaih, a Democratic candidate for the same congressional seat as Fiore, said the state lawmaker had violated her oath taken as a Nevada elected official -- when she swore to "protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States ... (and) bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or law of any state."
“To support domestic terrorists and completely ignore real civil rights groups is just wrong,” Sbaih said. “It demonstrates how unfit she is to represent the state of Nevada.”
Watch this interview with Fiore posted online by the Las Vegas Sun: