One of the most consistent talking points deployed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its environmental activist allies is that they weren’t sufficiently consulted about the Dakota Access Pipeline. In fact, that claim was the justification the Obama administration used to halt construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River/Lake Oahe reservoir, saying that a review of consultation with the tribes was needed.
“We weren’t consulted on this project,” Standing Rick chairman David Archambault has said. “It was just being ramrodded through this area, and so we’re working at it and we’re exploring everything that we can and exposing all that we can.”
But North Dakota Senator John Hoeven told me in an interview today that the tribe was consulted, and that he had a hand in ensuring it happened.
“I understand they feel that way,” Hoeven told me, “but not only were they consulted with the tribe continues to be consulted.”
Hoeven said that before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitted the project the responded to a request from him to meet further with the tribe.
I asked Hoeven if he has visited the protest site. “I haven’t been down to the protest site,” he told me. “I would certainly go if that would be helpful,” adding that he has met with tribal leaders both in Washington D.C. and in Bismarck.
I also asked Hoeven about the Senate overriding President Barack Obama’s veto of legislation allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration responded to the vote by saying it was the most embarrassing thing the Senate has done since 1983 (the House voted to complete the veto override after my interview):
White House spokesman calls 9/11 bill vote the "single most embarrassing thing" the Senate has done in decades https://t.co/EB3Pd6GRP3
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) September 28, 2016
“It might be embarrassing to the President,” Hoeven said, “but the vote was 97-1.”
Hoeven said the legislation ensures that the families of 9/11 victims can hold Saudi Arabia accountable in court for whatever involvement they may have had with the terror attacks.
I asked Hoeven what he felt about the Obama administration’s argument that this would undermine America’s sovereign immunity from similar lawsuits in foreign courts.
“The United States doesn’t engage in terrorism,” he told me. “We do things the right way. A lot of countries do not.” He also added that other countries are already free to allow lawsuits against the United States in their courts.
Here’s the full audio of the interview: