Last night, President Obama was asked about the Dakota Access Pipeline and its ongoing protest in a NowThis interview (full transcript below).
President Obama’s remarks are a concerning response from the nation’s Chief Executive who is charged with the enforcement of the rule of law.
The President fails to acknowledge that the project is already more than 77 percent constructed, making a “reroute” wildly difficult, if not impossible.
He also does not acknowledge that a legal process was followed by the State of North Dakota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which determined the route of the pipeline. That route was upheld by both the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Obama’s “let it play out” suggestion is a dangerously ambiguous and flippant comment on a serious issue. Dakota Access is a multi-billion dollar infrastructure investment that has been highly regulated and examined for over two years.
There is nothing left to review.
The ongoing protest activity has been illegal since its inception and has only gotten more dangerous as time has progressed. The federal government has now “let it play out” for 54 days and there have been nearly 400 arrests with charges of arson, assault, and attempted murder. Further inaction is tacit approval of further escalation.
Moreover, the project did accommodate culturally sensitive lands and sites throughout the construction and review processes. The project was altered over 140 times to respect lands deemed significant, and no cultural sites near the Lake Oahe construction corridor have been identified. These measures were taken despite the fact that at no point does this pipeline cross Sioux Reservation lands.
The executive branch cannot allow this potentially dangerous situation to “play out.” The purpose of the branch is to enforce the law.
The following is a transcript from the interview:
Interviewer: One thing the candidates aren’t really talking about is the Dakota Access Pipeline. Is that something that you would consider intervening in, people have called for your Administration to make a call.
President Obama: We are monitoring this closely and I think as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think, right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline. So we are going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that is properly attentive to the traditions of the First Americans.
Interviewer: Is there something to be done about the way protesters are being treated, they are getting sprayed with rubber bullets, we’re seeing some kind of shocking footage.
President Obama: Yea, I mean it’s a challenging situation. I think that, my general rule, when I talk to Governors, state and local officials, whenever there are dealing with protests, including for example, during the Black Lives Matter protests, is there is an obligation for protesters to be peaceful. And there is an obligation for authorities to show restraint. I want to make sure as everyone is exercising their constitutional right to be heard, that both sides are refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.