Today, the Senate voted to confirm Daniel Jorjani to the Interior Department’s Solicitor General role. The vote passed a divided senate by a margin of 51-43. Jorjani was confirmed despite potentially perjuring himself under oath about his role in the politicization of public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is being investigated by Interior’s Inspector General.
“Daniel Jorjani has proven himself a yes-man to Secretary Bernhardt’s reckless public lands policies and practices, and he is clearly willing to go to great lengths to cover up corruption. Jorjani answers to politics first and special interests second, leaving our outdoor heritage, public lands legacy, and critical habitat protections behind,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “His confirmation is an overt attack on transparency at the Interior Department, making it clear that the Senators voting for the latest corrupt Trump administration nominee will refuse to stand up for transparency and our public lands when it matters most.”
Daniel Jorjani originally faced the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in early May. Afterward, his nomination was stalled after Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) called for an investigation into his answers. Jorjani potentially perjured himself under oath after claiming he himself did not participate in the recently instituted political review of FOIA requests at Interior.
Emails obtained by WVP revealed that Interior and all sub-departments are now 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.
Jorjani is further leading Interior’s efforts to thwart transparency by restricting FOIA requests. A proposed rule change to public records requests, crafted by Jorjani, would severely restrict requests by allowing the agency to arbitrarily deny requests that it deems ‘burdensome’ or ‘vague.’
Jorjani — a former ‘key employee’ for the oil billionaire Koch Brothers empire — has been the architect of some of the department’s most controversial decisions that have benefited industry and special interests.
Daniel Jorjani issued a 19-page decision that reversed a previous departmental ruling that renewed copper and nickel mining leases for Twin Metals, a Chilean mining company, on the border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the most visited wilderness area in America. The foreign mining company’s parent company, Antofagasta, is owned by billionaire Andrónico Luksic’s family, who happens to rent a home to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in Washington. Jorjani met with Antofagasta and the lobbying firm that represents Twin Metals in 2017 prior to issuing a favorable decision.
In December 2017, as Acting Solicitor, Jorjani issued a new legal opinion reinterpreting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Under his new favorable interpretation, oil, gas, and other industries would now go unpunished for the incidental killing of birds. After an analysis of internal departmental documents and emails, it appears industry may have been involved or at least was aware the new opinion was forthcoming. Jorjani’s emails reported on by Reveal News also found that the nominee had included then-Deputy Secretary Bernhardt in the process ‘since Day 1.’ The new MBTA interpretation would ostensibly benefit many of Bernhardt’s former oil and gas and extractive industry clients.
Daniel Jorjani was originally hired by disgraced former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. His efforts to limit transparency were properly summarized when he made clear what a role at Interior meant to him: “At the end of the day our job is to protect the Secretary.”