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‘Unfit for the position’: Acting BLM chief won’t get the permanent post — but he’ll stay on the job

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Sarah Okeson
Sarah Okeson

William Perry Pendley, the embattled attorney who is acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, is out as a candidate for the permanent job.

Trump withdrew Pendley’s nomination on Saturday because it could have caused problems for three Republican senators in tough re-election races who would have voted whether to confirm him: Steve Daines of Montana, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona. He is expected to remain as acting director.

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“President Trump’s Senate Republican allies appear uncomfortable voting to confirm such a controversial nominee,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “They should be similarly uncomfortable with allowing Pendley to keep working for the federal government.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat who is running against Daines, filed one of two federal lawsuits about Pendley’s appointment. Bullock’s lawsuit says Pendley is violating the Federal Vacancies Reform Act which prohibits acting officers from running agencies while their nominations are pending before the Senate.

The Western Watersheds Project, an environmental watchdog, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, also sued over Pendley’s appointment. Both cases are pending.

In July 2019, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt appointed Pendley acting director. Trump nominated Pendley to become director of the bureau in June.

The bureau oversees 247 million acres of public land, roughly the size of Texas and California combined, more land than any other federal agency. The bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed director since Trump took office.

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All 45 of the Senate’s Democrats and the two independents wrote Trump in August, asking him to withdraw the nomination, saying he was “unfit for the position.”

Pendley previously ran Mountain States Legal Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for private property rights, and sued the Interior Department, which he is now a part of, at least 40 times. Pendley also worked under James Watt in the early 1980s as deputy assistant secretary of the Minerals Management Service.

Pendley pushed for a fire sale of coal leases in that job which led to a federal probe in which he was referred for possible criminal prosecution. No charges were ever filed.

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In November, he publicly undermined the agency’s rangers, writing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they should defer to local law enforcement. His words could lead to potentially violent confrontations with bureau employees who routinely face threats, harassment and violence from people upset about restrictions on public land.

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Shocking emails document Trump administration’s scheme to muzzle the CDC — and misinform Americans

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Emails obtained by The New York Times detail how Trump administration political appointees sought to silence the Centers for Disease Control during the coronavirus pandemic.

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‘That is not true’: MSNBC cuts away from Trump’s press briefing after he claims Biden is anti-vaccine

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During a press briefing at the White House this Friday, President Trump touted the coronavirus vaccine currently in development, preemptively calling it “successful” and saying that it will save “millions of lives.”

While making his comments, Trump took a dig at Joe Biden, claiming he espouses "anti-vaccine theories" and he's "putting a lot of lives at risk" for "political reasons."

Trump's words prompted MSNBC's Ayman Mohyeldin to cut away from the briefing and issue a fact check.

"Obviously there's no evidence of that -- that is not true," Mohyeldin said.

Watch the video below:

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2020 Election

‘Deranged’ Trump mocked for declaring himself ‘the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico‘

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During a press briefing on Friday, President Donald Trump claimed that he was “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico.”

The president was commenting on the fact that the White House had authorized $11.6 billion in aid to rebuild infrastructure on Puerto Rico three years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

But given that Trump reportedly wanted to sell Puerto Rico or swap it for Greenland because he viewed the US territory as dirty, many people on Twitter did not take kindly to his boast.

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