One of Donald Trump’s top foreign policy advisors is trying to wrest control of a Montana dam from two Native American tribes as part of a bizarre anti-Muslim campaign.
Joseph Schmitz, an attorney and former Pentagon inspector general, was tapped as one of Trump’s five foreign policy advisors last month, along with a bewildering mix of conspiracy theorists and “third-rate people.”
Schmitz served as co-counsel in a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of Montana State Senator Bob Keenan (R-Bigfork) and former state Senator Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) asking a court to block the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes from taking over management of the former Kerr Dam, reported the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
The dam, which was built in the 1930s on tribal land, was renamed the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ dam when the tribally owned Energy Keepers, Inc., paid nearly $18.3 million to NorthWestern Energy to acquire it.
That’s when things got weird.
Schmitz, who’s an “insider” with the right-wing Newsmax website and senior fellow at the virulently anti-Islam Center for Security Policy, and fellow co-counsel Lawrence Kogan filed a lawsuit seeking to block the transfer — which they argued posed a national security threat from Turkey.
The attorneys claimed the dam transfer would allow the Turkish government and terrorists to obtain nuclear materials, although they were unable to provide any factual evidence of their claims.
Turkey is an American ally and member of NATO, and the U.S. State Department considers the nation a key partner in its counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East.
“The nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative says Turkey is active in nuclear proliferation prevention efforts and is a member of all major treaties governing the acquisition and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,” reported the Associated Press.
The claims are based on conspiracy theories about the Turkish Coalition of America, a nonprofit lobbying group that has been working to establish an agricultural trade relationship with Native American tribes.
Schmitz and Kogan, who boasts ties to the right-wing Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, warned that Turkey may be trying to “promote their brand of Islam” on reservations and produce yellowcake uranium using tribal resources.
“It is quite possible that the Turkish government, sponsored Turkish business enterprises, and affiliated terrorist groups or members may be seeking access to such expertise for possible acquisition and use of incendiary devices to compromise Kerr dam and/or other off-reservation targets,” the lawsuit claims.
Schmitz and Kogan voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit in October after they were unable to provide evidence of their claims about a terrorist alliance with Native Americans.
The lawsuit, and Trump’s embrace of Schmitz, highlights the links between anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists and efforts to strip Native Americans of their rights, property and heritage.
CERA, which essentially challenges Native American rights as unconstitutional, and its longtime leader Elaine Willman are part of a continuum of bigoted crackpots who promote white supremacist and other extremist fringe views through Tea Party organizations and on right-wing websites.
That’s the mindset Trump is bringing onto his foreign policy team.
Schmitz himself has written frequently about his fears of sharia law, multiculturalism and political correctness — all personal bugaboos for Trump — and has argued that Americans who receive public assistance should be barred from voting.
“Multiculturalism, political correctness, misguided notions of tolerance and sheer willful blindness have combined to create an atmosphere of confusion and denial in America about the current threat confronting the nation,” Schmitz wrote.
Trump’s anti-Muslims views are well known, but he doesn’t much like Native Americans, either.
He’s fought against the right of tribes to establish casinos under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and he’s complained for years about his competitors in that business using racist remarks.
Trump, of course, is a huge fan of the Washington NFL team’s racist nickname.
“I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name,” he said. “They think it’s a positive.”