Trump’s top lawyer at Interior under Secretary Bernhardt accused of breaking the law

  • Published on August 12th, 2020

An Interior Department Inspector General’s report and breaking reporting reveals that President Trump’s top Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani illegally withheld public documents prior to the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s Senate confirmation hearing and then “perjured himself under oath,” according to a statement by the Western Values Project.

Stop dirty oil lobbyist David Bernhardt from heading the Interior Department

By Dan Bacher

Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the Westlands Water District and oil companies, is currently promoting a plan to increase Delta water exports to the Westlands Water District and other corporate agribusiness interests in California’s San Joaquin Valley while fast-tracking the raising of Shasta Dam. The raising of Shasta Dam will inundate the remaining sacred sites of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe on the McCloud River and will spell disaster for imperiled Sacramento winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead populations.

An analysis by Western Values Project details Jorjani’s perjury. “This is nothing short of a criminal act, and Trump’s political appointees need to be held accountable,” said Jayson O’Neill, Western Values Project Director.

“Withholding public documents, filtering potentially incriminating communications, and then lying about it under oath should result in Jorjani’s immediate removal, but that seems unlikely in President Trump’s and Secretary Bernhardt’s corrupt swamp.”

“Western Values Project (WVP) first exposed the political ‘awareness review’ policy at Interior back in March of 2019,” according to WVP. “At the center of the new policy that allowed Trump’s political appointees to review and withhold critical and potentially incriminating public documents was former key-Koch network employee Daniel Jorjani.”

In June 2019, WVP and Campaign for Accountability, along with three other watchdog groups, filed a complaint with Interior’s watchdog that spurred an investigation of the political ‘awareness review’ process of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests at the department.

“An analysis by WVP found that numerous media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Politico, The Hill, and others, as well as watchdog organizations, were subject to the political awareness review, causing delays and, in some cases, limiting responsive public documents being released,” WVP reported.

On September 24, 2019, he U.S. Senate voted to confirm Daniel Jorjani to be the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior with a 51-43 vote. Jorjani had been serving as the Principal Deputy Solicitor for Interior since May of 2017.

“As someone who has served as Solicitor of the Interior, I know Dan Jorjani will be an exceptional Solicitor and serve the American people admirably,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt at the time of his confirmation.  “He will continue to distinguish himself with his integrity, his work ethic, his humility, and his sincere dedication to the Department’s mission.”

However, Jordani’s so-called “integrity” didn’t stop him from illegally withholding public documents prior to Bernhardt’s Senate confirmation hearing and then “perjuring himself under oath,” as WVP points out.

As Solicitor, Jorjani manages over 370 attorneys, encompassing divisions and offices that include ethics; energy and minerals; parks and wildlife; Indian affairs; land; water; and general law, spanning 16 regional and field offices along with the DOI’s Freedom of Information Act office. He also serves as the Regulatory Policy Officer on Interior’s Regulatory Reform Task Force and a member of the DOI’s Executive Resources Board.

From 2001 to 2009, Jorjani held several positions at the DOI under President George W. Bush, including Counselor to the Deputy Secretary and Counselor and Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget.

Background:

What is Corrupt Former Mega-Lobbyist Turned-Interior Secretary Bernhardt Trying to Hide?

Inspector General Confirms Investigation as Groups Uncover More Evidence of Political Interference at Interior

Senator Calls for Criminal Investigation Into Interior’s Nominated Solicitor for Lying About Public Records Political Meddling

Interior’s Watchdog Opens Investigation into Political Interference by Trump Appointees

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.

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