Interior memo says grants should promote Trump priorities: WaPost

Interior memo says grants should promote Trump priorities: WaPost
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE’s Interior Department has implemented a new policy that asks staff awarding federal grants to ensure the awards "promote the priorities" of the administration, according to a Dec. 28 memo obtained by The Washington Post

The decision appears to be an attempt to exert further control for the Trump administration over federal funding of grants to academics and non-profits. 

The Post reports that Scott Cameron, Interior's principal deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, has instructed other officials at Interior to submit most grants for approval by one of his aides. This includes "any award of at least $50,000 to 'a non-profit organization that can legally engage in advocacy' or 'to an institution of higher eduction.'"

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use Interior secretary met with tribal lawyer attached to Zinke casino dispute Zinke joins board of small gold mining company MORE lists 10 priorities for grants, according to an attachment to the directive. They include “creating a conservation stewardship legacy second only to Teddy Roosevelt,” “utilizing our natural resources,” “restoring trust with local communities” and “ensuring sovereignty means something.”

Other priorities including “protecting our people and the border” and “modernizing infrastructure.”

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The approval process, according to the Post, is unprecedented in the department. David Hayes, an Interior Department deputy secretary under the Clinton and Obama administrations, told the Post that the directive could, in some cases, be in violation of federal law.

“Subjugating Congress’ priorities to 10 of the Secretary’s own priorities is arrogant, impractical and, in some cases, likely illegal,” said Hayes, who is currently the director of New York University School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.

The memo warns that employees who do not follow the new process will be subject to “greater scrutiny” from higher-ups.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement to the Post that he is “skeptical” of the directive and that it “looks like a backdoor way to stop funds going to legitimate scientific and environmental projects.”

“Using the federal grant process to punish scientists doing important work because they disagree with that philosophy is unacceptable, and there’s good reason to think that’s what’s really happening here,” Grijalva said.