Trump’s Interior Department stacked an advisory committee for Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah with ranchers and politicians who opposed former President Barack Obama creating the 1.35-million acres of protected land and welcomed Trump shrinking it by 85%.
Democracy Forward, a nonprofit founded in 2017, asked the Inspector General of the Interior Department to investigate whether Secretary David Bernhardt violated federal law by packing the 15-person committee with opponents of the monument.
“The Bears Ears committee was designed to protect a treasure of the American West and stacking it with opponents of the monument could violate federal law,” said Travis Annatoyn, an attorney for Democracy Forward.
Committees are supposed to be fairly balanced and not unduly influenced by the financial interests of its members.
Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972, committees are supposed to be fairly balanced and not unduly influenced by the financial interests of its members.
But Bernhardt appointed at least three people who have financial conflicts of interest. Cattle rancher and San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams has a permit to graze his cattle on Bureau of Land Management land.
Rancher Zeb Dalton also has grazing rights. Rancher Gail Johnson’s husband, Sandy Johnson, filed paperwork to join one of the lawsuits over Bears Ears, saying restoring Bears Ears to its original size “would threaten my business and personal interests.”
Bears Ears, named after twin peaks that look like the ears of a bear, was once the second-largest national monument in the lower 48 states. Five native American tribes urged Obama to create the monument which included about 9,000 recorded archaeological sites, including petroglyphs, woven cloth, human remains and ancient roads.
But another committee member, Jami Bayles, of Blanding, Utah, was offended by the new monument.
‘Nothing But a Punishment’
“Monuments should be an honor to an area, and we feel like this one is nothing but a punishment,” Bayles said.
Judges in federal lawsuits have faulted or upheld inquiries into other committees formed by the Trump Interior Department.
In August, federal judge Donald Malloy ruled that Trump unlawfully formed the Royalty Policy Committee, which was stacked with fossil-fuel representatives and blocked the Interior Department from using the committee’s recommendations.
In September, federal judge Alison Nathan rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit about the Interior Department’s trophy hunting council. That committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council, includes four people – gun company executive Peter Horn, lawyer Chris Hudson, Arizona developer Mike Ingram and TV show personality Keith Mark – who were involved in a 2016 fundraiser advertising access to Trump for contributions of $500,000 or more.
Former National Rifle Association lobbyist Ben Cassidy was the contact person at the Interior Department for the trophy committee. Cassidy left in July while his conduct was part of a formal ethics department probe and joined Safari Club International, a trophy hunting advocacy group with close ties to the Trump administration.
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On Feb. 4, 1992, George Herbert Walker Bush was campaigning for reelection at the National Grocers Association convention in Orlando. There, the president “grabbed a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy and ran them over an electronic scanner,” wrote Times correspondent Andrew Rosenthal. “The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.”
“This is for checking out?” asked Mr. Bush. “I just took a tour through the exhibits here,” he told the grocers later. “Amazed by some of the technology.”
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I’m not being hyperbolic or melodramatic when I say that democracy itself is on the line on November 3. Donald Trump has been on a mission to subvert our democracy and to push it toward an autocracy. No president has ever disavowed democracy like Trump. No president has ever wanted to change our democratic way of life like Trump.
Trump has shown little interest or intent in following our Constitution. He is not abiding by the emoluments clause. He breaks norms and rules at will. He does not recognize that the three branches of government are co-equal. He operates as if the executive branch has total power. Our democracy is not based on the executive branch having absolute power. It requires that the three branches have separate powers in a check-and-balances system. Trump impugns democracy because it limits his power and requires him to be held accountable.
Trump supporters’ love for a liar comes back to bite them as the president falls apart when faced with reality
One of the most frustrating things, for both Democrats and the investigative journalists who worked tirelessly to expose Donald Trump's seemingly unending frauds, was how little Trump's base seemed to care that he was a liar and a cheat. The evidence of Trump's sociopathic disregard for business ethics, or any ethics at all, is overwhelming.
Trump cheated people who worked for him, finding ways to refuse to pay them. He spent decades engaged in tax fraud, reaping hundreds of millions through the process. Trump's claims to be a billionaire appear the inverse of reality, where he was a billion dollars in the red, making him the photonegative of a billionaire. Trump University was a scam, described in court as preying "upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money." Trump's supposed charitable foundation was also a scam that faked giving to worthy causes but operated largely as a way for Trump to pay bribes and pay down his personal debts with other people's money. Trump's real estate business was drowning in fraud, with the entire family engaging in practices that should have resulted in criminal charges, such as lying to potential buyers about how well their condos were selling.