The White House on Monday referred to an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon as a “local law enforcement matter.”


Spokesman Josh Earnest’s comments come even though the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has taken charge of the response to the incident along with state and local agencies.

“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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry DeSantis tops Trump in 2024 presidential straw poll White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine 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.”