One of the pleasures of the Trump administration for me has been seeing highly qualified friends receive nominations for important positions. But as with many pleasures, there’s a downside. I have seen these friends attacked, slandered as racists, and blocked from confirmation. In some cases, they haven’t been confirmed yet.
Take the case of Daniel Jorjani. I met Dan 20 years ago, when we both were just starting with the Akin Gump law firm. We went through orientation and training together.
I remained at the firm until my retirement 13 years later. Dan moved on to bigger things — a series of important public policy oriented jobs, both in and out of government.
In the Trump administration, Dan serves as Principal Deputy Solicitor of the Department of Interior. He’s been nominated to become the Solicitor.
Dan is very well qualified for the job. He’s been the Principal Deputy Solicitor for more than two years. In that job, he manages more than 330 attorneys. His responsibilities encompass divisions and offices that span a wide range of Department affairs including ethics, energy and minerals, parks and wildlife, Indian affairs, land, water, and general law. He also serves on Interior’s Regulatory Reform Task Force and as a member of Interior’s Executive Resources Board.
In addition, Dan has important relevant experience from his eight years at the Bush Interior Department. His positions during that time included Counselor to the Deputy Secretary, and Counselor and Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management & Budget.
What, then, is the case against confirming Dan? It’s the same as the case against nearly all of the many nominees the Democrats have blocked. He takes conservative positions — the ones favored by the president under whom he serves.
Naturally, Democrats and liberals are reluctant ever to put it this way. Typically, they cast their objections in incendiary terms, “racist” being the preferred one.
In Dan’s case, his opponents claim he has a conflict of interest. On its face, this sounds concerning. Does Dan have a financial or personal interest that stands in the way of being a fair Solicitor?
Not at all. Here is the alleged conflict of interest as described by the National Parks Conservation Association:
Mr. Jorjani’s efforts to shield the Interior Department’s actions from public transparency and his web of conflicts of interest with the industries which seek to profit from the Interior Department’s policies should be disqualifying. Prior to joining the Solicitor’s Office, Mr. Jorjani worked for Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a group funded by the Koch Brothers, which has sought an anti-regulatory agenda, promoted energy development on public lands, and is affiliated with pro-development interests. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Jorjani’s external meetings during his tenure at the Solicitor’s Office have focused almost exclusively on industry officials and affiliated think tanks (including his former employers).
The “conflict,” then, is that Dan has worked to implement an agenda this group doesn’t like, and meets with people who favor this agenda. In other words, the conflict is between what Dan believes and what the left wants.
The same argument could be used against almost any conservative presidential nominee. For that matter, if conservatives were as cynical as liberals, it could be used against any liberal nominee.
Where do liberal presidents find many of their nominees? At left-wing think tanks and advocacy organizations including, perhaps, the National Parks Conservation Association.
One can hardly miss the authoritarian overtones of alleging that it’s unethical to allow those with whom one strongly disagrees, and who meet with others who are like-minded, to serve in important government positions.
Fortunately, Dan’s prospects for finally being confirmed look pretty good. He has cleared committee. I understand that a decision on whether to bring his nomination to the floor is expected soon.
Every Republican Senator won’t agree with every opinion and brief that Dan has issued and signed. Nor can this be the standard for confirming qualified nominees. The president deserves more deference than that.
The Department of Interior is the only cabinet department that still lacks a Senate confirmed chief legal officer. Now that Dan has cleared committee, the Senate should remedy this state of affairs.