Activist Lawyer: Trump Overturning Obama’s Political Pipeline Obstruction Is Like Totally Political


Neby Ceeneby of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe helps move donated goods out of the path of potential spring floods in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

I don’t think anyone would accuse former U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon of being a deep thinker, but the federal prosecutor turned activist lawyer outdid himself with this display of conflicted logic regarding President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders.

Purdon literally argues that Trump overturning Obama’s political pipeline obstructions is, uh, political.

Former U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota Tim Purdon, who specializes in Native American law as a lawyer for Robins-Kaplan, said this administrative action leaves lawyers for the tribe with the same argument that lawyers for the Dakota Access Pipeline have been making — namely, their administrative rights have been violated.

Purdon said the Obama administration’s delay of DAPL was decried as politically motivated and a circumvention of the established pipeline permitting process. Now that the process for an EIS has been started, the tribe is making similar claims.

“The Trump administration’s politically motivated decision violates the law and the tribe will take legal action to fight it,” the tribe said in a statement.

The Bismarck Tribune report doesn’t indicate whether or not Purdon managed to get that out with a straight face. Though it’s also not clear that Purdon is bright enough to recognize his own cognitive dissonance.

On the question of politics, it’s worth remembering that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was in favor of issuing the easement, a decision that was overruled by Obama administration political appointees per this NBC News report.

As to the question of whether or not Trump can lawfully rescind the EIS process begun by the obstructionist Obama administration, I think Congressman Kevin Cramer provided us that answer.

The Congressman said (audio) the Trump administration has the authority to rescind it because, in legal filings responding to the pipeline company’s request that the study be enjoined, the Obama administration itself argued that this was the case.

It will be interesting to hear the activists argue that the Trump administration lacks an authority that the Obama administration apparently said, in legal filings, that it would have.

But legal niceties aside it is ridiculous to think that in its final days an outgoing administration could, with nakedly political motivations, launch a years-long bureaucratic process that the incoming administration cannot rescind.