September 27, 2022

House Natural Resources Committee refers investigation involving former Trump officials to DOJ

5 min read

In a letter to Attorney General Merck Garland on Wednesday, Raul Grezalova, chairman of the committee, wrote in a letter to Katie Porter, chairwoman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigation, that the committee was investigating the matter. Quaid Pro is called “. Arizona developer Michael Ingram and senior officials in the Trump administration, including the then Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

The case involves Ingram’s efforts to build a housing and golf course project in 2017. Initially, a field supervisor of the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that it was “reasonably certain” that endangered and endangered species could be harmed by growth, but later changed their minds. Was done, and the project was allowed to proceed.

“Since 2019, the House Committee on Natural Resources has conducted an extensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the October 26, 2017 decision of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to To change their long-held position, Arizona, Gregalova and Porter, both Democrats, write to Garland in their letter.

“Evidence strongly suggests that this decision was the result of a collaboration between Vignetto’s developer, Michael Ingram, and senior officials in the Trump administration, possibly David Bern, then-Deputy Secretary of the DOI. Hart (Deputy Secretary Bernhard). “

“This level of donor activity was not normal,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, their investigation suggesting that “Ingram was mostly associated with donors.”

Sending the committee to the Department of Justice is not a criminal charge in itself and it is up to the DOJ to decide whether to investigate further.

Was the subject of a series of events. CNN report including a whistleblower. He said he was pressured to reverse his decision to allow the construction of a housing and golf project without an in-depth biological survey.
Steve Spingle, a 30-year veteran of the Fish and Wildlife Service, told CNN in a 2019 interview, “I felt pressured to reverse my decision … in the simplest terms, I was rolled over.” “I made a decision that I had the authority to make in Arizona, and it was rejected by the top brass.” CNN was the first to report. A series of meetings between Ingram and Trump administration officials, including a secret breakfast meeting between Ingram and Bernhard that did not appear on their official calendar.

Lenny Davis, a prominent Democratic attorney representing Ingram’s company, El Dorado, said: Reminds me of the use of Envendo as a surrogate. ” CNN said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “El Dorado attended several meetings with this committee, acted with complete transparency, and cooperated fully without a petition. Nevertheless, we denied the basic and fundamental opportunity to refute the allegations in this regard.” Gone and not even given a chance to speak. Dear Chairman. “

Bernhardt did not immediately respond to a request for comment by CNN.

At the time of Wesley Bilour’s account in 2019, Admissions declined to answer any specific CNN question for the story, and instead stated in one sentence: ” Has been reviewed and the best available science has been used. The endangered species has been given the correct result required under the Act. ”

The legislature’s letter states that FWS rejected its 2017 proposal based on an internal review of “the process by which this decision was made.” The letter said that the Army Corps once again suspended the permit on July 1, 2021.

But environmental concerns surrounding the area have been left behind for more than a decade because of its proximity to the San Pedro River and the habitat of endangered and threatened species. Remote desert landscaping was initially developed for development in the early 2000’s. The Environmental Protection Agency, which has long opposed site construction, wrote in 2005 that it “represented a substantial and unacceptable impact on water resources of national importance,” and that the EPA’s position has not changed since. Opponents of the plan also say the water supply to the river could be affected.

The San Pedro River, pictured below in May 2019, was cited in a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday.

The lawmakers wrote in the letter that they found in their investigation that “FWS staff and DOI legal staff have been agreeing for years that formal consultation on Vignetto’s Clean Water Act permit is required under the Endangered Act.”

“Once President Trump was elected, Vignetto’s developer, Michael Ingram, had access to top administration officials, including personal email addresses and cell phone numbers,” he wrote. “In August 2017, Mr. Ingram had a breakfast meeting with then-Deputy Secretary Bernhardt in Montana. The breakfast meeting was not disclosed in the public calendars or in the documents submitted to the committee.”

Following the meeting and “apparently at the behest of Department Secretary Bernhardt,” a Home Office lawyer issued an order to “change the position of the FWS”, a process by which key decision-maker and Citi Bilour claimed to have ‘Rolled up’ and was considered very unusual. “

Lawmakers cited three developments on October 6, 2017, when they wrote, “Together, these facts raise serious concerns about the potential culprit. quid pro quo

“First, the Army Corps formally reviewed the Clean Water Act permit,” he wrote. “Second, Mr. Ingram and several others from Arizona donated a total of $ 241,600 to the then President Trump’s Joint Fundraising Committee, the Trump Victory Fund, on and before October 6, 2017, and in the days before and after. Republican National Committee. Third, Deputy Secretary Bernhardt met with a DOI attorney who was instrumental in guiding Vignetto’s decision. “

The letter written by Gerjalova and Porter to Garland is linked to CNN’s advance reporting of a reversal of the department’s decision.

“The findings of this investigation show us once again that the previous administration set aside the expertise of career staff when they assigned federal agency decisions to Trump’s friends and big donors on a pay-per-view basis.” There is a name for Americans, but for Arizona, it has been a threat to our fragile desert ecosystem for years, “Gerzalova, who represents Arizona’s Third Congressional District, told CNN in a statement. “I urge the Department of Justice to initiate this investigation and ensure that the right people are held accountable for what they did and how they betrayed the trust of the American people.”

CNN’s Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Audrey Ash contributed to this report.

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