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Ousted Trump Administration Agency Head Insists ‘I Have Not Been Ousted’

President Donald Trump’s controversial appointee to temporarily head the U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Land Management (BLM) insists that he is still serving as one of the agency’s top officials despite a federal court ordering him to immediately step down from the position.

“I have not been ousted. That is not true,” William Perry Pendley, the BLM’s (former) deputy director of policy and programs, said last week during an interview with the Powell Tribune, adding that the judge’s order “has no impact, no impact whatsoever.”

“I have the support of the president. I have the support of the Secretary of the Interior and my job is to get out and get things done to accomplish what the president wants to do — which means increase recreational opportunities on federal land and to increase opportunities for jobs, so we can [economically] recover back to where we were pre-pandemic,” Pendley said.

This may come as a shock to U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, who last month ruled that Pendley had been leading the agency unlawfully for 424 days in violation of both the Appointment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA).

Morris outright rejected the government’s argument that Pendley could continue serving as temporary bureau head because he was just an “official performing the Director’s duties,” and not an “acting” appointee, calling the assertion a “distinction without a difference.”

“Under Federal Defendants’ theory, a President could ignore their constitutional appointment responsibility indefinitely and instead delegate authority directly or through Cabinet Secretaries to unconfirmed appointed officials. Such an arrangement could last for an entire presidential administration. In fact, the case before the Court presents that scenario,” he wrote. “Such arguments prove evasive and undermine the constitutional system of checks and balances. Federal Defendants’ theory flies in the face of the constitutional design, the clear text of the FVRA that provides the ‘exclusive’ means for temporary appointment, and the history of Executive Branch evasion of the Appointments Clause that led Congress to pass the FVRA in the first place.”

Even though Morris enjoined Pendley from taking any further action as head of the bureau, he said he was still performing his duties as usual.

“I’m still here, I’m still running the bureau,” Pendley said, pointing out he has never been the acting director. “I have always been from day one … deputy director of policy and programs.

“It’s just an attempt — and we’ve seen this since, I don’t know, 2016 — as an attempt to delegitimatize this administration,” he added.

President Trump formally nominated Pendley to head the bureau in July, but quickly withdrew his name after his confirmation appeared in dire jeopardy of being rejected due to his history of controversial comments and positions.

Morris said that the administration’s theory could effectively remove congressional oversight from the appointments process.

The former fossil fuel industry attorney previously urged people to “shoot, shovel, and shut up” when discovering endangered species on their property. According to a report in The Guardian, Pendley has “mocked Native American land management practices and dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as based on a ‘lie.’”

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.