Statement on potential criminal investigation of Acting Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani

Jul 31, 2019

DENVER—Senator Ron Wyden today formally requested the Department of Justice open an investigation into whether Acting Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani misled or lied to Congress about the Interior Department’s “awareness review” process for handling public records requests that involve political appointees. Interior’s FOIA policies are already under investigation by the department’s Office of Inspector General.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“There is mounting evidence that Daniel Jorjani egregiously and repeatedly lied to Congress in an attempt to cover up illegal political interference with the Freedom of Information Act. Senator Wyden is completely right to hold up Jorjani’s nomination, and the Senate should ultimately reject his appointment.

“Jorjani and the FOIA interference policy he helped craft are now the subject of multiple investigations. At the very least, he should no longer be allowed to serve as Interior’s Chief FOIA Officer. Secretary Bernhardt should immediately appoint a career FOIA official who will follow the law, rather than continue with a political operative who looks for ways around it.”

Last week, a bipartisan group of four senators called on the Environmental Protection Agency to reverse changes to its FOIA policy that would give political appointees broad latitude to withhold portions of public documents. EPA’s FOIA changes, which were published in the Federal Register without public comment, are substantially similar to FOIA practices that have been uncovered at the Interior Department.

Learn more

  • Ethics Office Examines Allegations That Interior Dept. Officials Violated Transparency Laws [New York Times]
  • Interior held back FOIA’d documents after political screenings [Roll Call]
  • Trump administration delayed releasing documents related to Yellowstone superintendent’s firing [The Hill]