Outraged by new whistleblower revelations of horrifying wrongdoing by federal officials in the Bundy case — one official kept a “kill list,” others withheld evidence from the defense — prominent lawmakers in Western states are asking Congress and the Trump administration to investigate. The government's case, which gained national attention after a 2014 armed standoff in Nevada between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Bundy family and its supporters, appears to be crumbling. But even as it appears increasingly likely that the defendants will soon walk free, officials say the alleged crimes perpetrated by government officials must not be allowed to go unpunished.
As The New American reported on December 19, a memo by whistleblower Larry “Clint” Wooten, who served as the lead BLM investigator on the case, revealed an incredible array of misconduct by heavily armed bureaucrats. Among the most alarming revelations: Special-agent-in-charge Dan Love, already under investigation by Congress, kept a “kill list” as a “trophy” commemorating ranchers whose deaths he contributed to. Apparently the bureaucrat was proud of his role in driving three Utah ranchers to commit suicide. The whistleblower memo also exposed Love's extremely bizarre habits, including photographing his own excrement and his girlfriend's genitalia and sending the images to colleagues.
Other BLM officials involved in the Bundy case bragged about brutalizing protesters, according to the whistleblower. There were also numerous accusations of legal and policy violations that in addition to putting the prosecution at risk, also could subject the individuals involved to potential prosecution. For instance, agents celebrated their heavy-handed attacks, shoving somebody's face into the ground so hard that gravel stuck into the skin, and more. Throughout the explosive memo, aside from the unethical conduct and the bigotry against Mormons expressed by officials, there is also evidence that some BLM officials wanted to instigate a conflict and even kill some of the defendants and their supporters. On top of that, there are several allegations that officials withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense.
But now, with the facts coming out, prominent officials from the region want answers. Washington Representative Matt Shea, who was elected as the House Republican caucus chairman this year, explained that the BLM controls almost half a million acres of land in his state. “When an agency has these sorts of dramatic allegations against it, obviously I'm very concerned,” he told The New American in a phone interview. “Mr Wooten was lead investigator — this isn't some low-level disgruntled employee. What he alleges here is essentially unethical, illegal behavior. He also alludes to the fact that government was aggressor, not Bundy, and that there was even a kill book kept by Special-agent-in-charge Love that bragged about driving three people to commit suicide.” Especially concerning was the confirmation that snipers were employed, contradicting government claims denying or downplaying their presence.
A second memo cited by Representative Shea was written by a BLM assistant special-agent-in-charge about Wooten's allegations. In that memo, it was revealed that Wooten had outlined a series of “critical vulnerabilities” in the BLM's case against the Bundy family, a family that was terrorized by the agency for allegedly not paying grazing fees allegedly due to the feds (the Bundy family denies wrongdoing and insists they have always complied with the law). The first vulnerability identified was that the BLM was “heavy handed” and “cruel,” with Shea pointing to the BLM's killing of cattle, killing of bulls in an effort to destroy herd, the establishment of a “First Amendment zone” for protesters, the tazering of older ladies, the harassing of the public on a public right of way, and more.
The second critical vulnerability was that BLM lacked legitimate law-enforcement authority in the case. Indeed, more than a few legal experts and scholars have questioned the legitimacy and constitutionality of the entire agency, as well as its dubious claims to reign supreme over vast areas of American land. Vulnerability number three, “probably the one that should live for all time,” as Shea put it, is that BLM is a “poor manager of resources” such as grazing areas, the memo said. “We all knew that already, but to have this admission that BLM can't even perform the mission for which it was formed is really important,” Shea said, emphasizing the constitutional and pragmatic concerns surrounding an agency that has been plagued by controversy and scandal for years.
“I can sum this all up in a few principles,” Shea continued. “No one is above law. Bureaucrats are servants of people, not other way around. And third, we are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Fourth, a sniper rifle is not due process. This continued aggression is not just breach of trust with American people, but it's BLM trying to establish itself as a law-enforcement agency, which is not all right.” Shea also pointed to previous reports in The New American magazine highlighting, among other issues, a blistering 2012 ruling by U.S. District Court of Nevada Chief Judge Robert Jones exposing what he described as a “conspiracy” by the BLM and other federal agencies, involving “abhorrent” abuses of power, to destroy the Hage ranching family. There appears to be a pattern here, critics of the agency say.
All of this must be investigated by Congress and the new Trump administration, and criminal violations must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Shea said. “There's been rumors that the case [against the remaining Bundy family members] is going to be dismissed,” he said, noting that some of the cases against some defendants had already collapsed completely. “This is probably a big reason why. The defense, I presume, has given this to the court. There's an interesting part that nobody is really talking about yet, though, which is that several people entered into plea agreements based on false or incomplete information. So maybe President Trump ought to look at this and consider whether commuting the sentence is appropriate here. They entered these deals without having all the evidence and facts, so this is something to look at.”
Shea, a liberty-minded Republican with a growing national following, also said the violations and alleged crimes outlined by Wooten, the BLM whistleblower, warrant an investigation by Congress, the new Trump administration, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “These people should all be fired, if this is all borne out by the investigation, but some of these players need to be prosecuted,” he said. “Special Agent Wooten alleges that the Department of Justice prosecutor knew about this, and took a ‘don't ask don't tell’ approach to withholding exculpatory evidence. This may expand not just into an investigation of the prosecutor, but potentially even charges against them.”
Other lawmakers alarmed by the startling abuses of power outlined in the Wooten memo are also speaking out and calling for justice. Idaho Representative Dorothy Moon, a Republican who has constituents ensnared in the case, led a group of more than 50 Idaho lawmakers in a campaign to seek intervention in the case by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A letter by the legislators asking for help was personally delivered to Sessions by Representative Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), apparently sparking closer scrutiny from the highest echelons of power in Washington, D.C. After that, at least some of the Idahoans behind bars were released, with two pleading guilty to misdemeanors and another being set free with no charges.
Representative Moon visited five of the Idahoans who were in custody on charges related to the cases. “I was never so taken with the true character of these men, their understanding of the Constitution and their determination to see that the light of justice be shown on this horrifying over-reach of federal power,” she told The New American, pointing to Ryan Bundy's historic opening statement before the court. Concerned about what she learned, Representative Moon decided to go to federal court in Nevada to witness the proceedings. And while there, she saw the defense attorneys hand exculpatory evidence to the court that had allegedly been improperly withheld from the accused. That withholding of exculpatory evidence, Moon believes, helped set Ammon Bundy free, at least temporarily, allowing him to embrace his wife and new child after 22 long months behind bars awaiting trial.
But the big picture is now coming into view, and Americans must keep the pressure on, Moon said. “The ramifications of the Bundy family story are consequential to the maintenance of proper government, the ethical standard by which government operates and the fundamental rule of law,” she explained in an e-mail to The New American. “It was clear from the get go that the government was acting on an agenda that precluded constitutional guarantees.… I am hopeful that further exposure of this story to the public will reveal the nefarious lengths our federal government was willing to go to force the last Southeast Nevada rancher off his range.” In a phone interview, Moon also said it was important for Americans to follow the case and get involved — everybody's liberties are under threat when federal agents can run roughshod over individuals, as the BLM appears to have done here.
Outside observers who have followed the case in the alternative press were shocked, too. “Clearly, these men were not engaging in enforcement of the law,” explained commentator Tim Brown at Freedom Outpost, speaking of the rogue BLM bureaucrats involved in terrorizing the Bundy family. “They are sadistic and wicked.” Commenting on the agent who deactivated a body camera, as reported by Wooten, Brown speculated that the official in question may have been preparing to murder a rancher or protester, and did not want evidence to be available. “There was no threat at Waco. There was no threat at Ruby Ridge, and there was no threat at Bundy Ranch,” wrote Brown. “There were law-abiding citizens wanting to protect each other against a tyrannical government and out of control BLM agents.... If you still want to side with the government on this one, then you have chosen your side.”
Indeed, as the lawmakers explained, this case has taken on a significance that goes far beyond one ranching family and their supporters. Instead, this case is about freedom, God-given individual rights, and the preservation of constitutionally limited government. With their case imploding and the government's bureaucrats now facing serious criminal allegations, the remaining defendants in the Bundy case may soon be set free. But for the sake of liberty, Americans must ensure that the impunity and lawlessness exhibited by officials in this case is not allowed to stand. Freedom is on the line. Whether it survives into the future will be determined by what the American people do from here.
Update: A mistrial was declared in Cliven Bundy's trial on December 20.