Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) will not vote for Tracy Stone-Manning, President Joe Biden’s controversial nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), because of new revelations about her involvement in a past ecoterrorism plot.
Daines said Tuesday in a Senate floor speech that he would have welcomed his fellow Montanan’s nomination for BLM director if not for the “alarming” and “disturbing” new details about her role in a 1989 tree spiking crime.
“The picture she and her advocates painted about her involvement in this crime is that she was the innocent hero who helped put bad people in jail,” Daines said. “Well, in recent weeks, we learned there’s a lot more to this story.”
As Breitbart News reported:
While Stone-Manning was a graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula in 1989, she mailed a profane letter on behalf of John P. Blount to the U.S. Forest Service, alerting authorities that trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest that were scheduled to be cut down had been sabotaged with metal spikes.
Tree spiking, as this form of sabotage is called, is both a crime and, by the FBI’s definition, an act of ecoterrorism.
After the Forest Service received Stone-Manning’s letter, she and six other individuals in Missoula were the target of a 1989 grand jury investigation, for which they were subpoenaed and required to submit fingerprints, as well as handwriting and hair samples. The grand jury did not uncover enough evidence from its investigation to charge Blount with a crime, but Blount’s ex-wife reported him to authorities two years later, and in doing so, also named Stone-Manning as the person who mailed the tree spiking letter for him. In exchange for immunity, Stone-Manning testified in a 1993 trial against Blount, and he was later convicted of the crime and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Daines in his speech highlighted several issues with the crime’s chain of events, including the fact that Stone-Manning did not reveal information about the letter she mailed until 1993, four years after the start of the tree spiking investigation.
“Rather than bringing criminals to justice, Ms. Stone-Manning assisted and helped them evade justice for years,” Daines observed, concluding that “what Ms. Stone-Manning did was actively obstruct an investigation.”
Two witnesses from 1989, the lead criminal investigator on the case, Michael Merkley; and Blount, the individual convicted, both came forward during her nomination process and reinforced this notion. Merkley said “she was not an innocent bystander” and Blount said she had known about the operation “far in advance, a couple months before we headed out” and had an “agreed-upon” role as the letter deliverer.
Stone-Manning in May also falsely claimed to the Senate committee in a questionnaire that she had never been the target of a criminal investigation and inaccurately described the tree spiking crime as an “alleged” crime.
“Montanans care about trusting those in public service, about integrity. The public trust surrounding Ms. Stone-Manning has been wrecked. Her ability to be the director of the Bureau of Land Management has been compromised beyond [repair],” Daines said.
Daines, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, had been relatively quiet about Stone-Manning as she testified before the committee in June and as she came under heightened scrutiny for her past.
He made his position clear however on Wednesday when he joined all of his Republican colleagues on the committee in condemning her nomination and calling on Biden to withdraw it. Daines said that in her past roles in conservation in Montana, details about the crime, including aspects of the timeline and the contents of Stone-Manning’s profanity-laced letter, were not public.
Stone-Manning, who was also a member of the ecoterrorist group Earth First! at the time of the tree spiking crime, is now a senior policy adviser for the National Wildlife Federation. She previously worked for top Democrat politicians in Montana, including former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
Tester has been one of the only congressional Democrats to actively push for her nomination, but on Monday, Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a crucial swing vote, announced he too would support her.
The committee will vote on Stone-Manning’s nomination Thursday morning, and unless a committee Democrat chooses not to follow Manchin’s lead, the vote will be deadlocked since all ten committee Republicans oppose her.
At that point she would not receive a favorable recommendation from the committee, but through procedural actions, her nomination could still be discharged out of the committee and make it to a full Senate vote. In that scenario, all 50 Republicans and just one Democrat would have to vote against Stone-Manning in order to derail her confirmation.
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