Chaffetz demands White House documents on Bears Ears designation

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SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jason Chaffetz issued subpoena letters to the White House and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Thursday in the wake of the Bears Ears Monument designation in southeast Utah, demanding a bevy of documents and communications — including those related to every designation President Barack Obama has made since 2013.

"(Obama's) sweeping application of the Antiquities Act raises questions about the administration's commitment to transparency and consultation with local stakeholders with respect to designating national monuments," the letters read.

Chaffetz, R-Utah and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said repeated requests for information related to the administration's "process" in using the Antiquities Act were ignored or met with inadequate response.

*In his letters to Jewell and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Chaffetz asserts two key federal laws governing public purpose, public participation and environmental review were ignored with Wednesday's designation of the monuments in Utah and Nevada.

(The laws) provide for a more thoughtful determination, whereas the Antiquities Act was meant to be reserved for emergency scenarios," the letter said.

Chaffetz added that such large designations are the type of "federal agency action envisioned by our federal and procedural laws."

The letter to Jewell asks for all communications between any Department of Interior employee and White House staff between Jan. 15 to the present, daily call logs and schedules for Jewell, Bureau of Land Management director Neil Kornze and two other key staff members, as well as transcribed interviews of Kornze, Jewell's chief of staff and another Department of Interior employee.

In the letter to Christy Goldfuss, the council's managing director, Chaffetz specifically asks for:

  • All calendars, including meetings and attendees, of all council staff involved or referenced in any discussions regarding any monument selection or designation
  • All call logs for any council employees and White House staff, as well as the senior adviser, from Jan. 15 to present
  • All material related to selection or designation of monuments from April 21, 2015, to present
  • All documents and communications related to reduction in size, limitation or repeal of national monuments from Jan. 20, 2008, to present

The letters warn that if Jewell or Goldfuss do not make the documents available by Jan. 13, the oversight committee will use the "compulsory process to obtain them."

Chaffetz has wielded the subpoena power before, demanding the FBI's full email file in the Hillary Clinton investigation in September.

In an interview Thursday on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show," Chaffetz said Obama's unilateral action is an "egregious" demonstration of the president's disregard for the people of Utah.

"Now as the oversight committee, we are left with no choice but to dive headfirst into this," he said. "There is no end to the places I will go to make sure we get the truth out about this."

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue


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