Daniel Jorjani

Daniel Jorjani

Credentials

  • JD, Cornell Law School (1996). [1]
  • Masters in International Affairs, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (1992). [1]
  • Certificate, Columbia University, Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union (1992). [1]
  • Bachelor of Arts, Vanderbilt University (1989). [1]

Background

Daniel H. (Habib) Jorjani was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior on September 24, 2019. Before that, Jorjani was the Principal Deputy Solicitor of the Interior Department. [2]

Jorjani held several prior positions at the DOI under President George W. Bush. From 2001 to 2009, those positions included Regulatory Policy Officer on Interior’s Regulatory Reform Task Force and a member of the DOI’s Executive Resources Board. [2]

Jorjani was formerly counselor to the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior Lynn Scarlett. Mother Jones noted that Scarlett, behind the proposed privatization of National Park Service Jobs, had also held a range of roles including president and CEO of the Reason Foundation/Reason Public Policy Institute: [3][4]

“The Reason Foundation is funded by industry groups such as the American Forest and Paper Association, the American Petroleum Institute, American Plastics Council, Chevron Corporation, Dow Chemical, etc. The author of ‘A Consumer’s Guide to Environmental Myths and Realities,’ Scarlett cites the following as common myths about the environment: Disposables Are Bad; We Are Running Out of Resources; Americans Are Especially Wasteful; etc. Scarlett was a board member of The Thoreau Institute which “seeks ways to protect the environment without regulation, bureaucracy, or central control,” Mother Jones reported. [4]

“In a 1997 editorial in Reason Magazine, Scarlett wrote, ‘Environmentalism is a coherent ideology that rivals Marxism in its challenge to the classic liberal view of government as protector of individual rights.’” [4]

Before joining the DOI, Daniel Jorjani worked with Koch brothers-controlled groups included Freedom Partners as recently as 2017. This is noted in his resume provided to the Department of Interior. Jorjani’s financial disclosures show he left Freedom Partners as of April 2017, albeit with a benefits plan to receive $45,000 per year starting at age 65.[1], [5]

PR Watch reported that, according to 2011 tax filings, Jorjani was one of the highest paid employees of the Charles Koch Institute where he worked as director of research. He also worked as a program officer for research at the Charles Koch Foundation[6]

From 1999 to 2001, Jorjani worked as a corporate associate for Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld where he “Advised clients active in making energy investments in Russia and Central Asia.” OpenSecrets documents the firm received $12,900,000 in lobbying income in 1999 alone, with clients including mining and energy companies as well as oil giant ExxonMobil.[1], [7]

Political Contributions

The following is a list of Daniel Jorjani’s campaign contributions, based on data exported from the FEC: [8]

Committee 1996 2000 2004 2007 2008 2011 2012 Grand Total
BUSHCHENEY ’04 COMPLIANCE COMMITTEE INC.     $2,000         $2,000
BILL MANGER FOR CONGRESS INC.     $2,000         $2,000
JOHN MCCAIN 2008 INC.       $300 $1,150     $1,450
BUSH FOR PRESIDENT INC   $1,000           $1,000
ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT INC.             $500 $500
ROMNEY VICTORY INC             $500 $500
MCCONNELL SENATE COMMITTEE ’96 $500             $500
PAWLENTY FOR PRESIDENT           $500   $500
Grand Total $500 $1,000 $4,000 $300 $1,150 $500 $1,000 $8,450

Stance on Climate Change

2017

Jorjani held a key role at Freedom Partners, a group that has consistently advocated to “remove impediments” to fossil fuel production. In 2017, Freedom Partners applauded President Trump for withdrawing the U.S. from the “harmful Paris Agreement.” [9], [10]

2007

In 2007, President Bush created a Climate Change Task Force “to study climate change because of its possible effects on our ability to be good stewards of wildlife, national parks and other landscapes as well as our responsibility to help moderate greenhouse gas emissions.” The task force was headed by Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett, whom Jorjani worked under as counselor at that time. It is unclear if Jorjani had any influence on the outcome of that investigation. [11]

Key Quotes

September 26, 2019

Two days after Jorjani’s confirmation as Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, he attended a committee hearing in place of Secretary David Bernhardt to discuss the DOI‘s failure to cooperate with the Congressional Oversight committee for DOI requests. In that meeting, he evaded questions asking whether he would examine potential errors in the handling of ethics recusals of David Bernhardt and other DOI members. An excerpt from his exchange with U.S. Representative Jared Huffman of California below: [12]

Huffman: “…[I]n the case of Mr. Bernhardt who similarly gave himself a one-year recusal for his former client the Westlands Water District, was never his employer, was a former client, should have been two years. He gave himself one year in the recusal, and immediately started participating on matters pertaining to the Westlands Water District when that one year period was up. But he shouldn’t have.

Are you willing to pledge to this committee that you’ll go back and review all decisions, especially critical decisions that Mr. Bernhardt and potentially other officials have participated in where they should have been recused?”

 Jorjani: “Thank you for the question. I take very serious the ethics program in the U.S. Department of Interior and allocated significant resources to it. I think one of the best hires the department…”

Huffman: “No, no, no! No narratives sir. I asked for a specific pledge. If this was misapplied, if participation occurred where there should have been recusal, you’re the Solicitor of the Department of Interior. Are you gonna do something about it?”

 Jorjani: “Thank you for the question. I prize and pride myself on working collaboratively with the designated agency ethics official. In your role of providing legitimate oversight of our executive branch agency, you’ve raised a legitimate issue. You’ve asked me to commit to going back to the DAEO…”

Huffman: “I know what I’ve asked you. The whole world knows what I just asked you. You don’t need to repeat it. You’re burning my time.”

Jorjani: “I’m sorry. Yes, I commit to going back and sitting down with Scott de la Vega and Heather Gottry to go through Mr. Pendley’s and Secretary Bernhardt’s recusal agreements.”

Huffman: “And any participating Mr. Bernhardt had involving Westlands between the one-year and two-year mark when he should have been recused, you’re willing to report back to this committee on whether you think decisions are valid, whether there should be some remedial action, whether those actions can even stand given that he should have been recused. Will you report back to this committee on that?”

Jorjani: “Out of an abundance of caution, you say ‘specific matter’, are you referring to particular matters…”

Huffman: “I am referring to anything you find that should have been recused but he did it. Because it was a one-year when it should have been a two-year. You know what I’m saying.”

Jorjani: “I think you’ve asked a legitimate question.”

December 22, 2017

“Interpreting the MBTA [Migratory Bird Treaty Act] to apply to incidental or accidental actions hangs the sword of Damocles over a host of otherwise lawful and productive actions, threatening up to six months in jail and a $15,000 penalty for each and every bird injured or killed,” a Department of Interior memo, reportedly written by Jorjani, announced the reinterpretation of the MBTA that would let energy companies off the hook for actions that kill birds accidentally. [13], [14]

Key Deeds

March 31, 2020

Jorjani was included in a list by Rolling Stone  in an article titled “Climate Enemies: The Men Who Sold the World.” According to the magazine, “bad actors are not only failing to address the crisis, they’re actively exacerbating it” and the list includes “America’s worst offenders, from fossil-fuel industry magnates, to investment gurus, to the president himself.” [22]

EJorjani has issued several controversial legal opinions, including one allowing mining companies to set up shop near Minnesota’s Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness, which had been protected under the Obama administration, and another shielding energy companies whose operations killed protected birds,” the article notes. “’The way Interior has acted under the Trump administration is the textbook definition of a political cartel, using state resources to help special interests,’ Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. ‘It sure looks to me like Mr. Jorjani has been a key member of the cartel.’” [22]

September 26, 2019

Jorjani was a witness for a Committee on Natural Resources oversight hearing on ”The Department of the Interior’s Failure to Cooperate with Congressional Oversight Request.“ The Hill reported that Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva had requested an investigation into the Interior department’s FOIA process “citing evidence that it resulted in inappropriate delays and the removal of entire documents from being released, while [Sen. Ron] Wyden had asked for an investigation into Daniel Jorjani, one of the architects of the policy, who Wyden says may have lied to Congress about it.”[12], [15]

During the hearing, Grijalva noted that only three of 24 responses to requests to the Interior provided enough information to be deemed satisfactory. He also flashed small samples of the thousands of pages of responses that were almost completely blank, and virtually useless. [15]

Interior’s refusal to cooperate means this committee cannot do the oversight envisioned in our Constitution,” Grijalva said. “That has not stopped the Trump administration from delaying, obstructing and sometimes just ignoring our efforts to conduct oversight.” [15]

It looks like the department made a mistake,” Jorjani said when shown the images of a request that was redacted when given to the committee even though the full document was released publicly through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Hill reported, noting that the Department’s actions received bipartisan criticism during the hearing. [16]

See Jorjani’s written testimony, and also view the video below: [12]

Some interchanges from the hearing below: [15]

Mr. Huffman: “We were expecting to be questioning the Secretary of Interior today, David Bernhardt. Obviously you’re not David Bernhardt. Were is Mr. Bernhardt right now that he could not join us for this testimony?

Jorjani: “I think he’s in a meeting in the White House right now, sir. That is the only thing that would trump his desire to be here testifying personally himself.”

Mr. Huffman: “You’re the legal safety net for the Department of Interior. That’s a big deal.”

“Have you been involved in the review of ethics recusals for Interior officials including reviewing the advice from career ethics officials that they get?”

Jorjani: “Um, the designed agency ethics official Scott de la Vega is the one…”

Huffman: “I’m asking if you have been involved.”

Jorjani: “It depends on your definition of involved. The DAEO [Designated Agency Ethics Official] reports to the office of the solicitor.”

Huffman: “Have you reviewed the recusal or the ethics advice given to folks like, for example, David Bernhardt? Including during his time as deputy secretary? Did you review either the recusal or the advice given to Mr. Bernhardt?”

Jorjani: “Um, the designated agency ethics official and the alternate designated ethics official …”

Huffman: “That’s a real clear yes or no question. Did you review either of those things? The recusal or the advice given?” 

Jorjani: “The DAEO and the ADAEO meet with the secretary on a weekly basis…”

Huffman: “You’re not going to give me a yes or no answer?”

Jorjani: “Well, I am going to answer. In those weekly meetings …”

Huffman: “Mr. Jorjani, I need… I’ve got a bunch of questions here. Let’s just do the yes or no and let’s keep it moving on. Is the answer yes? I mean, presumably… you’re the solicitor. You’re going to see these documents, aren’t you?

I mean, I’ve got Mr. Pendley’s ethics recusal and you’re copied right on it. Can we just stipulate you review the recusal and also the ethics advice that these officials get?” 

Jorjani: “I want to be careful how I phrase that. The DAEO and the alternate DAEO are the ones that perform the advice of ethics counsel. On a weekly basis, we were asking about secretary Bernhardt, at least on a weekly basis the secretary …

Huffman: Thank you. All right. This is a little bit evasive sir, I’m sorry to say. But let me ask you a very specific question. I have here the ethics recusal for Deputy Director Pendley. It lists a number of recusals that apply for only one year including Garfield County and Kane County Utah. 

“Why does Mr. Pendley get only a one year recusal instead of the standard two-year recusal under the Trump’s ethics pledge for those clients? 

Jorjani: “The one-year recusal process is what’s set forth in the regulations. The broader two year recusal process paragraph six and seven of Trump’s ethics pledge, regarding specific parameters of Mr. Pendley’s recusal and his ethics agreement I would direct those questions to the deputy agency ethics officials.

Huffman: “Well you’re the solicitor of the Department of Interior. There’ son one better to answer a very specific legal question on something like this than you. And we’ve got you today. 

“So, here it is: I have a Trump ethics pledge, and I’ve got it right here, it clearly defines when a two year ethics pledge ought to apply, and it applies to any former clients, period. 

“Then there’s a separate one-year situation that you default down to if you were an employee of a government agency. Now was Mr. Pendley an employee of those counties? You know the answer.”

Jorjani: “Um….”

Huffman: “Want me to answer it for you? He was not. They were clients”

Jorjani: “I believe he worked at the Mountain States Legal Foundation.”

Huffman: “Yea. And so that makes them clients. That should have been a two-year ethics recusal. 

“Mr. Jorjani, I know you are an astute and scholarly lawyer. I know you appreciate that words matter. And if you have been mis-reading or mis-applying the Trump ethics pledge, as it pertains to Mr. Pendley, I have to wonder if you’ve not either been misreading or misapplying it as it pertains to Mr. Bernhardt.

“Because he also has some clients that you’ve given a one-year recusal to, former clients, instead of the two-year that ought to apply, isn’t that true?”

Jorjani: “This is why the Secretary’s obsessive focus on ethics reform has been so incredibly significant. 

Huffman: “Oh, it’s been obsessive all right.”

Mr. Jared Huffman, when he resumed his line of questioning later in the hearing, pressed Jorjani on what he would do about the recusals of BLM director William Pendley and also with Secretary Bernhardt: [15]

Huffman: “…[I]n the case of Mr. Bernhardt who similarly [to Pendley] gave himself a one-year recusal for his former client the Westlands Water District, was never his employer, was a former client, should have been two years. He gave himself one year in the recusal, and immediately started participating on matters pertaining to the Westlands Water District when that one year period was up. But he shouldn’t have.

Are you willing to pledge to this committee that you’ll go back and review all decisions, especially critical decisions that Mr. Bernhardt and potentially other officials have participated in where they should have been recused?”

 Jorjani: “Thank you for the question. I take very serious the ethics program in the U.S. Department of Interior and allocated significant resources to it. I think one of the best hires the department…”

Huffman: “No, no, no! No narratives sir. I asked for a specific pledge. If this was misapplied, if participation occurred where there should have been recusal, you’re the Solicitor of the Department of Interior. Are you gonna do something about it?”

 Jorjani: “Thank you for the question. I prize and pride myself on working collaboratively with the designated agency ethics official. In your role of providing legitimate oversight of our executive branch agency, you’ve raised a legitimate issue. You’ve asked me to commit to going back to the DAEO…”

Huffman: “I know what I’ve asked you. The whole world knows what I just asked you. You don’t need to repeat it. You’re burning my time.”

Jorjani: “I’m sorry. Yes, I commit to going back and sitting down with Scott de la Vega and Heather Gottry to go through Mr. Pendley’s and Secretary Bernhardt’s recusal agreements.”

Huffman: “And any participating Mr. Bernhardt had involving Westlands between the one-year and two-year mark when he should have been recused, you’re willing to report back to this committee on whether you think decisions are valid, whether there should be some remedial action, whether those actions can even stand given that he should have been recused. Will you report back to this committee on that?”

Jorjani: “Out of an abundance of caution, you say ‘specific matter’, are you referring to particular matters…”

Huffman: “I am referring to anything you find that should have been recused but he did it. Because it was a one-year when it should have been a two-year. You know what I’m saying.”

Jorjani: “I think you’ve asked a legitimate question.”

September 24, 2019

Jorjani was officially confirmed to become solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior with a 51-43 vote. [2]

As someone who has served as Solicitor of the Interior, I know Dan Jorjani will be an exceptional Solicitor and serve the American people admirably,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. [2]

In his position as solicitor, Jorjani will oversee 370 attorneys who focus on ethics; energy and minerals; parks and wildlife; Indian affairs; land; water; and general law, the DOI press release notes. [2]

Acting U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt applauded President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that he intended to nominate Jorjani in February 2019. [17]

May 2, 2019

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held Daniel Jorjani’s confirmation hearing, alongside that of Mark Lee Greenblatt to be Inspector General, Department of the Interior. [18]

HuffPost reported that, during the hearing, Democrats brought up Jorjani’s 2017 emails where he had written that “our job is to protect the Secretary.” [19]

December 2017

The Pacific Standard reported in January 2018 that Jorjani had signed two orders that would significantly benefit the mining, oil, and gas industries. The first was a rollback of an Obama administration decision to prevent the development of a copper and nickel mine bordering the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. The second would rescind the prior interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which had allowed federal officials to prosecute companies who kill birds during their business activities. [20]

“The eradication of these environmental policies, meanwhile, was helmed by a little-known but high-powered lawyer inside the Department of the Interior named Daniel Jorjani. Jorjani is the department’s principal deputy solicitor, and his signature adorned both orders when they were publicly released in Washington, D.C., last month,” Pacific Standard reported. [20]

The paper also obtained Jorjani’s personal calendar, which revealed he “communicated with industry lobbyists, lawyers, trade groups, consultants or corporate officials no fewer than two dozen times between mid-May and October of last year.” [20]

While his meetings included communications with Oregon timber companies, mining association representatives, and a cattle industry lawyer, “Meetings between Jorjani and public interest or conservation groups during that same timeframe, meanwhile, appear to be exceedingly scarce,” the Post added. [20]

The calendar shows Jorjani met with representatives of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group, at least two times in 2017. He had a June 22 meeting with Laura Skaer, the executive director of the American Exploration and Mining Association. [20]

Department of the Interior spokesperson Heather Swift, when explicitly asked whether Jorjani met with any conservation groups, did not reply. She did issue a statement that the “The fact is, the solicitor’s office has an open door policy and regularly meets with conservation organizations as well as pro-business representatives.” [20]

When contacted by the Pacific Standard, several key conservation groups with stake in the decisions said they had never been consulted in the matters and some were unaware changes were happening: [20]

“Audubon was never invited to Interior to discuss [the MBTA] change,” said Nicolas Gonzalez, the media relations manager at the Audubon Society. “As far as we know—again, we haven’t spoken with all green groups—conservationists were not approached at all.” [20]

Becky Rom, a member of the governing board of the Wilderness Society and national chairperson of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters commented: [20]

“We have never met with Jorjani, we have never met with the solicitor or a political appointee in the solicitor’s office. We did not have an opportunity to meet with him, we did not know it was under reconsideration and we did not know that the opinion was coming out. We would have liked to have had input because we feel that the opinion is not correct on the facts or the law.”

View his full schedule here, via the Pacific Standard.

December 22, 2017

Jorjani issued the decision that leases for a copper and nickel mining operation on the border of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness would be renewed. The mining operation was owned by a Chilean mining firm belonging to the family of billionaire Andrónico Luksic, who rents a home to Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, in Washington. [21]

A year prior, the department and U.S. Forest Service decided not to review the lease pending a review of the environmental impacts of the mining operation.[21]

March 2017

As HuffPost reported, and Democratic Senators brought up during Jorjani’s 2019 confirmation hearing, in a March 2017 email exchange Jorjani had raised concerns about an Interior staffer’s $4,000 six-day trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The email was released as part of an open records request. [19]

The staffer, Russell Roddy, had travelled to the Virgin Islands to prepare for a trip former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took that spring. [19]

In the obtained email, Jorjani warned Roddy that “$4,000 for a six day advance in the Virgin Islands is not a small [sum] and will draw the [Office of the Inspector General’s] attention.” He added in parentheses: “OIG’s love travel investigations. They are easy to document and spin in a negative way.” [19]

Jorjani added he had “worked and successfully protected” Interior appointees facing investigations from the department’s internal watchdog and said it was Interior staffers’ responsibility to keep Zinke out of trouble. “At the end of the day our job is to protect the Secretary,” he wrote. [19]

Jorjani defended the email in his May 2, 2019 hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

N/A.

Resources

  1. Political Resumes via Department of Interior (PDF). PDF creation date June 25, 2018.

  2. (Press Release). “U.S. Senate Confirms Daniel Jorjani as Solicitor of the Department of the Interior,” U.S. Department of the Interior, September 24, 2019. Archived September 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/daTA1

  3. Department of the Interior, FOIA Response, 06/07/17, Department of the Interior Directory, Government Publishing Office, 08/09/07.

  4. The Ungreening of America: Behind the Curtain,” Mother Jones, September/October 2003 issue. Archived September 25, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/FqL8z

  5. Jorjani, Daniel 278e 2017 Annual Report With Annotation (Certified 3 23 18),” Retrieved from DocumentCloud. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  6. Nick Surgey. “Revealed: Extensive Koch Links to New Right-Wing $250 Million Mega Fund,” PR Watch, September 16, 2013. Archived September 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/ECAqv

  7. Akin, Gump et al.OpenSecrets. Accessed September 28, 2019.

  8. Campaign Finance Data,” Federal Election Commission. Data retrieved September 25, 2019.

  9. American Energy,” Freedom Partners. Archived Spetember 28, 2019. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/Za4T2

  10. Freedom Partners Applauds President Trump for Protecting U.S. Taxpayers and the Economy from Harmful Paris Agreement,” Freedom Partners, June 1, 2017. Archived September 28, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/YSlPG

  11. (Press Release). “New Climate Change Task Force at Interior Department,” U.S. Department of Interior, May 31, 2007. Archived September 26, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/GiVx9

  12. Oversight: Full Committee Oversight Hearing,Natural Resources Committee, September 26, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  13. Laurel Wamsley. “Accidentally Killing Birds Isn’t A Crime, Says Trump Administration,” NPR, December 27, 2017. Archived September 25, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/Es3Zj

  14. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act Does Not Prohibit Incidental Take” (PDF), United States Department of the Interior, December 22, 2019.

  15. Rebecca Beitsch. “Interior watchdog investigating political appointees’ review of FOIA requests,” The Hill, September 20, 2019. Archived September 28, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/OcS8r

  16. Rebecca Beitsch. “Lawmakers show bipartisan irritation with Interior over withheld documents,” The Hill, September 26, 2019. Archived September 28, 2019. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/bwLLD

  17. (Press Release). “Acting Secretary Bernhardt Applauds President Trump’s Intent to Nominate Daniel Jorjani as Solicitor of the Department of the Interior,” U.S. Department of the Interior, February 26, 2019. Archived September 26, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/bujSO

  18. Full Committee Hearing to Consider Various Nominations,U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, May 2, 2019. Archived .m4v on file at DeSmog.

  19. Chris D’Angelo. “‘What In The Hell Do You Mean?’: Dems Blast Top Interior Lawyer Over Loyalty Comments,” HuffPost, May 2, 2019. Archived September 25, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/aslXP

  20. Jimmy Tobias. “Meet the Former Koch Adviser Slashing Conservation Safeguards at the Department of the Interior,” Pacific Standard, Jan 10, 2018. Archived September 26, 2019. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/IFtvb

  21. Juliet Eilperin. “Trump administration renews mining leases near Minnesota wilderness, reversing Obama,” Washington Post, December 23, 2017. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/1GzPP

  22. Ryan Bort. “Climate Enemies: The Men Who Sold the World,” Rolling Stone, March 31, 2020. Archived April 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/b4XwR

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