Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin made a mistake last week when she posed with two political extremists in front of her office. She compounded it by posting a picture of the meeting on Facebook and by releasing an odd statement backing a man who was convicted of threatening federal officers with an AR-15.

Her first slip was posing with Anthony Dephue and James Ward. They are involved in the Three Percenters movement, which is the embodiment of nuttiness. The founder was Michael Brian Vanderboegh. He died in 2016 and had decades of involvement in the militia movement. He wrote a fictional book that led some of his supporters to attempt a ricin attack in Georgia.

The national group asserts that one of its key principles is: “No First Use of Force -- "Don't fire unless fired upon".

That rule has been ignored. In 2017, supporters tried to bomb a bank in Oklahoma City and bombed a mosque in Minnesota. Its members provided armed “security” at the Unite the Right rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville that same year (the national group issued a “stand down” order after as to involvement with white nationalists). These are but a few examples of violence or threatened violence by this group.

The national organization also encourages law enforcement to make the following unique pledges:

I will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.

I will NOT obey orders to impose unjustified martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.

I will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.

I will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities and thus turning them into giant concentration camps/civilian war zones.

I will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under ANY pretext.

This is wacky extremism at best.  McGeachin appears in a photo with Dephue and Ward who were wearing orange prison garb with the word “Engel”. That is Idahoan Todd C. Engel who was convicted by a jury for brandishing an AR-15 at federal officers during the Cliven Buddy standoff in Nevada. Is it really OK to threaten to shoot law enforcement?  McGeachin posing with them gives them undeserved credibility.

One can argue that the photo incident was a momentary lapse. McGeachin released a statement on Friday that didn’t help.  Here is the key part:

“I took a photo with two Second Amendment supporters who were here to support Todd Engel, an Idahoan who was treated unjustly by the court system for standing up for our fundamental rights as Americans. They were part of a larger group who had come to the Capitol to protest Engel's imprisonment.

“I wholeheartedly reject bigotry and discrimination in all of its forms. Throughout my public service, business career, and my personal life, I've always treated everyone with respect and dignity. Once I discovered that a few people had begun erroneously assigning sinister motives which are contrary to my true character, I immediately deleted the post.

“The photo was intended to show support for Engel and nothing more. No other messages were intended in this photo. To claim otherwise is ridiculous, and is part of a larger narrative to paint conservative leaders as embracing identity politics.”

McGeachin apparently doesn’t understand the Three Percenters movement’s looniness, labeling them merely as gun rights supporters. She argues that Engel was “treated unjustly by the court system for standing up for our fundamental rights as Americans.”  What right is that?  The right to threaten to shoot law enforcement with an AR-15? And, Engel was convicted by a jury.  Is she opposing the constitutional right of juries to determine guilt or innocence? Or, does she think threatening law enforcement doesn’t deserve a stiff sentence?

Perhaps McGeachin didn’t fully appreciate that these actions could be construed as distasteful. I believe she should hold a press conference, denounce the Three Percenters and retract her backing of Mr. Engel.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..