The White House on Monday referred to an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon as a “local law enforcement matter.”
“Ultimately this is a local law enforcement matter and the FBI is monitoring the situation and offering support to local law enforcement officials,” Earnest said.
The spokesman added that President Obama is “aware” of the situation and said there are no federal employees at risk.
The White House chose to sidestep questions about the takeover, which has captured the attention of cable news media and roiled the 2016 presidential debate.
The group of armed protesters, led by two sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, on Saturday took control of a facility at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon.
The occupiers say they are protesting a prison sentence for two landowners convicted of arson on federal property. The incident is the latest example of tensions between local protesters and the federal government over control of Western lands.
Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzNet neutrality fight descends into trench warfare Secret Service: No guns at Trump NRA speech Cruz: Breaking up 9th Circuit Court ‘a possibility’ MORE (Texas), a Republican presidential candidate, on Monday urged the group to “stand down.”
“Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds,” Cruz told reporters at a campaign event in Iowa.
“But we don't have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others,” he added. “And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.”