REGIONAL— A federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., has granted Twin Metals’ request to intervene in a case filed by several Minnesota businesses and environmental organizations against …
REGIONAL— A federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., has granted Twin Metals’ request to intervene in a case filed by several Minnesota businesses and environmental organizations against the Department of the Interior.
The three separate cases, all filed in late June, seek to overturn a May 2 decision by the Bureau of Land Management to reinstate two previously-cancelled mineral leases that are critical to Twin Metals’ proposed copper-nickel mine south of Ely.
The intervention by Twin Metals was expected and was not opposed by the plaintiffs in the case. As a party with substantial interest in the outcome of the case, Twin Metals had a legal right to intervene.
The cases have all been assigned to Judge Trevor McFadden, who President Trump appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court last October. In his short tenure, McFadden has already attracted controversy for his refusal earlier this year to recuse himself in a case involving publication of the so-called Steele dossier on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia by the online magazine Buzzfeed.
According to D.C.-based Politico, the private investigation firm Fusion GPS, which produced the dossier, argued in January that McFadden had so many conflicts of interest that he couldn’t fairly hear a motion by Fusion to quash a subpoena issued for the company’s testimony.
According to Politico, attorneys for Fusion GPS contended McFadden had represented a firm owned by a Russian businessman who claims he was libeled by the publication of the dossier. McFadden, who made campaign contributions to Trump’s campaign, also worked on Trump’s transition team and attorneys for Fusion GPS argued that he was likely influenced by Trump’s frequent comments challenging the accuracy of the dossier and attacking Fusion GPS.
But McFadden called his connections to President Trump “simply too tenuous to cause a reasonable observer to question my impartiality.” McFadden said his work for the Trump White House was purely voluntary and limited.
“As a volunteer, I reviewed public-source information about potential cabinet appointees for approximately four hours every few weeks for two to three months,” McFadden wrote. “I did not come into contact with Mr. Trump or any of the senior members of his campaign team. In fact, I do not know the president and have never met him in any capacity.”
The judge said any suggestion that he should recuse merely because he is a Trump appointee was meritless.
While McFadden’s appointment could be problematic for plaintiffs in the case, any ruling by McFadden is likely to be appealed to the D.C. appellate court, where the makeup of judges could be friendlier. Four of the 11 judges on the court were appointed by President Obama, while three, including the chief judge Merrick Garland, were appointed by President Clinton. George W. Bush appointed two of the judges, while his father appointed one other. President Trump has made a single appointment to the court, tapping Gregory Katsas for the job.