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Newly Uncovered Emails Show How Trump Administration Has Shaped Policies at the Behest of the NRA

January 24, 2020

According to a new report in The Guardian, emails show that the Trump administration has consistently done the NRA’s bidding when making potentially harmful decisions about public land and wildlife policy ––despite ethics prohibitions on giving “preferential treatment to any private organization.” This coordination comes after the NRA “spent roughly $30 [million] helping Donald Trump” win in 2016.

The Guardian’s report by Jimmy Tobias, which can be read in full here, shows that the Trump administration has consistently allowed the NRA “to shape policy outcomes and personnel decisions at the interior department,” which oversees “hundreds of millions of acres” of public land. The report adds to previous reporting on Cassidy’s role at the Department of Interior published by the Washington Post, the Intercept, and the Huffington Post.

  • In 2017, Benjamin Cassidy left his job as a lobbyist at the NRA to take “a top position” at the US Interior Department. He then “helped an NRA official join the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC),” which proceeded to “promote big-game trophy hunting overseas, a long-time NRA priority.”
  • Cassidy, who is now under investigation for federal ethics violations, also helped the NRA “[get] what it wanted” in a plan for recreational shooting in the Sonoran Desert. The Interior Department’s final plan “aligned almost perfectly with the NRA’s request, leaving roughly 90% of the monument open to recreational shooting.” 
  • In 2017, “Susan LaPierre, a prominent NRA member and the wife of NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, was appointed by the head of the interior department to the board of the National Parks Foundation.” It appears that she still holds the position. 
  • In 2019, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt “announced a proposal to open more than 1.4m acres of national wildlife refuge land to hunting and fishing activities.” The NRA celebrated the move as a “proposal supported and encouraged by the NRA.” Bernhardt has appeared several times on NRA TV, and just this week, he served as a keynote speaker at a key gun industry gathering

According to Tobias’ report, these moves have proved damaging to public lands. Target shooting in the Sonoran Desert national monument “has damaged archeological artifacts, destroyed saguaro cacti, and harmed other national and cultural resources.” Additionally, several environmental and conservation groups have sued over the IWCC and recreational shooting. 

This report is the latest in a series of allegations of corruption surrounding the NRA. New York AG Letitia James is investigating whether the NRA violated New York’s charities law; DC AG Karl Racine is investigating the NRA Foundation for suspected violations of nonprofit law; and the organization is locked in various lawsuits with it’s former ad agency, Ackerman McQueen

Despite overwhelming support from the American people, the Trump administration has repeatedly refused to support common-sense gun safety legislation––including H.R. 8, the House-passed bill to require background checks on all gun sales. Trump has also repeatedly spoken with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who asked Trump to “stop the games” around potential gun safety legislation after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

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