Today, the Interior Department released a new rule revising the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. The rule gives Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani, whose handling of FOIA is currently under investigation by Interior’s internal watchdog, broad discretion over the scope and speed of information released to the public.
“Interior issued this rule to shut out the public and keep their corruption a secret. They should drop the rule immediately — a move that should have never been pushed in the first place,” said Chris Saeger, Spokesperson for Western Values Project. “A heavily revised rule that was awful in the first place is still awful. Public information, like public lands, belong in public hands. And while Trump’s culture of corruption thrives, our institutions and outdoor heritage continue to suffer.”
This rule change was pushed by Daniel Jorjani, who leads Interior’s Solicitor General office. Jorjani’s work to politicize the public documents review process has long been criticized and is seen as ethically-challenged. Previously, emails obtained by Western Values Project (WVP) revealed that Interior and all sub-departments are subject to a ‘next level’ FOIA review by the Solicitor’s Office following Jorjani’s installment. The political review practice appears to be contributing to an extensive public records backlog by allowing political appointees to review, delay, and potentially withhold public documents from release.
After WVP highlighted political malfeasance within Interior’s discreetly-updated FOIA review process, Interior’s internal watchdog officially confirmed an investigation into the Department’s practice of allowing political appointees to review, delay, and potentially withhold public documents from release.
Though Daniel Jorjani was confirmed as Interior’s top lawyer, he is not without accusations of ethical misconduct. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) called on the Department of Justice to launch a criminal investigation into Jorjani’s false statements about his role in Interior’s aforementioned public records political review process. Wyden accused Jorjani of lying to Congress during his confirmation hearing.