By JENNY WILSON
Bureau of Land Management agent Dan Love, a central figure in the government’s case against rancher Cliven Bundy, has been identified as the target of a federal ethics probe in a letter two congressional lawmakers sent to the Office of the Inspector General.
The Feb. 14 letter, sent by U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, accuses Love of scrubbing emails, influencing witnesses and deleting hundreds of documents the day before a congressional investigative committee issued a records request. Chaffetz and Farenthold sit on the U.S. House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform.
The letter asks the Office of the Inspector General to further investigate Love following its release last month of an investigative report that slammed the agent for numerous ethics violations. The report found Love used his position to obtain tickets to a sold-out Burning Man festival, improperly intervened in the hiring process of a friend and bullied employees who could have reported his wrongdoing.
The latest allegations are likely to fuel defense arguments in the trial against six men charged as Bundy’s co-conspirators in a 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville. The incident occurred when the BLM, supervised by Love, tried to seize Bundy’s cattle.
Defense lawyers previously have suggested that Love is the target of the inspector general’s report, and have tried to introduce evidence related to the ethics accusations. They argue the standoff occurred because law enforcement officers acted improperly and aggressively.
In the letter, Chaffetz and Farenthold accuse Love of destroying federal records, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a congressional investigation. They cite unreleased records, including interviews with other BLM employees who were questioned during the inspector general’s investigation.
“After receiving a congressional request for documents, the witness heard Dan Love ‘say to (another BLM employee] that [said BLM employee) needed to make sure that he scrubbed the emails before he sent them, you know, flagging anything that looked inappropriate so that (Dan Love) could remove them if he needed,” the letter says.
The letter also accuses Love of trying to influence the investigation’s outcome by giving another employee “talking points” before an interview with investigators.
The letter does not identify the other employees interviewed about Love’s alleged misconduct. But defense attorney Todd Leventhal said last week that the investigative report named as many as five or six BLM employees who are on the government’s witness list in the Bunkerville standoff trial. Leventhal has said the other employees “aided and abetted” Love; First U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre maintains they were simply questioned as part of the investigation.
Myhre’s opening statement to jurors included references to Love’s efforts to de-escalate the standoff. The prosecutor since has said he does not plan to call Love, who was the special agent in charge, as a witness.
Chaffetz and Farenthold did not disclose what prompted them to investigate Love. But Chaffetz, who leads the House Oversight Committee, has introduced legislation to strip the BLM of its law enforcement functions. During the 2014 standoff with the BLM, Bundy called for participants to “disarm the National Park Service.”letter to the Inspector General about Bureau of Land Management (BLM)