The occupiers

Maxine Bernstein reports on scenes from the Bundy trial:

FBI agents on Friday took the witness stand to reveal some of the hundreds of thousands of Facebook posts and private messages that defendants in the Oregon standoff trial made in late December and throughout the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Testimony focused on many of Ammon Bundy’s Facebook posts in late December and January, including his “Call for Action” in Burns on behalf of a pair of local ranchers poised to return to federal prison, and how his comments were interpreted.

Some people innocently thought that Bundy didn’t mean violent action, and urged him to make that clearer.

Some followers said they were confused about the type of event Bundy was planning on Jan. 2 and urged him to be clearer. Among them was Gavin Seim, who on Dec. 30 wrote to Bundy asking him to clarify whether the Jan. 2 event was a rally or a call to action.

“I would never show up to a rally without my arms,” Bundy responded.

The next day, Brandon Thomas wrote to Bundy that he was “seeing a contradiction from the patriot railroad” about the Burns event.

“I think you ought to make it more clear that people should not take this as a green light to stand against the FEDS,” Thomas wrote.

“It is much more than a protest,” Bundy responded.

It’s a bit like Trump. A lot of people assume he’s “just” exaggerating, just saying threatening things for drama, just having a bit of fun. Don’t do that. Don’t assume he doesn’t mean it. Don’t assume he’ll turn out to be reasonable once in office.

Bundy and six co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Friday marked the end of the first week of trial. Eleven others have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge; seven more are set for trial in February.

In several of Bundy’s posts, he criticized Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, claiming the sheriff was “collaborating with the violators,” while he vowed to “do whatever it takes” to protect Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steve Hammond from having to return to federal prison on arson convictions.

“We as people desire to live in peace and tranquility, but we will defend our friends if necessary, Respectfully Ammon Bundy,” one post read. During the occupation, Bundy uploaded a video of himself seated in a refuge office, saying, “We basically came out here not to protest, stomp our feet…We came out here to make a difference.”

But he just meant by talking. The guns were…they were just a prop.

During the refuge takeover, video surveillance cameras from the Bureau of Land Management district office captured defendants Kenneth Medenbach and Ryan Bundy using a drill or driver to screw in two “Closed Permanently” signs onto the front sign outside its office in Hines, and onto a side door of the adjacent wildlife fire dispatch and communications center.

Jurors watched the silent video, which showed Medenbach pull up in his white van to the federal district office at 2:18 p.m. on Jan. 9. He, Ryan Bundy and an unidentified man worked for about seven minutes to screw the signs in.

Medenbach retrieved a camera from his van, stepped back and took photos of their work, before driving off. Later that day, Medenbach posted the photo of the sign on his Facebook page, under the words, “BLM Closed Permanently in Harney County, Oregon,” according to a screenshot of the posting shown for jurors.

But that’s nothing at all to do with conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work. No no, it’s quite different.

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