Chuck Todd neglected to ask Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about armed militia members who took over a federal government building in Oregon. The takeover was led in part by sons of Cliven Bundy, who Paul initially supported in his 2014 standoff with federal officials over land use and with whom Paul had extensively discussed land rights after a June 2015 campaign event.
Cliven Bundy's Sons Help Militia Take Over Federal Building, Citing Disagreements Over Land Use
Ammon Bundy And Two Brothers Are Part Of Armed Group That Took Over A Federal Building In Oregon. The Washington Post reported on January 3 that Ammon Bundy, son of anti-government extremist Cliven Bundy, two of his brothers, and other armed militia members took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, to “protest the federal government's treatment of a pair of ranchers facing prison time” for their illegal burning of federal land:
An armed militia took over a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon late Saturday and vows to occupy the outpost for years to protest the federal government's treatment of a pair of ranchers facing prison time.
The occupation of a portion of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge 30 miles southeast of Burns, Ore., followed a peaceful march for ranchers Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, who are scheduled to report to federal prison in San Pedro, Calif., on Monday after being convicted of arson, according to the Oregonian.
Ammon Bundy told the Oregonian that he and two of his brothers had joined dozens of people in seizing the refuge's headquarters.
The federal property, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was closed and unoccupied for the holiday weekend, the Oregonian reported.
Ryan Bundy told the Oregonian that the group isn't holding hostages and doesn't want to resort to violence but will not rule it out if authorities attempt to remove the occupiers from the property. He said many of the occupiers would be willing to fight -- and die -- to reclaim constitutionally protected rights for local land management, according to the Associated Press.
The group is calling for the Hammonds' release and said the militia was planning an occupation that lasted “for years.”
“The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area, then they will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever and the federal government will relinquish such control,” Ryan Bundy told the Oregonian. “What we're doing is not rebellious. What we're doing is in accordance with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.” [The Washington Post, 1/3/16]
Cliven Bundy Was Involved In Armed Standoff With Federal Government In 2014 After Disregarding Federal Authority Over Land Use
AP: Armed Militias Showed Up To Protest After Cliven Bundy's Legal Battle With The Bureau Of Land Management. The Associated Press reported that rancher Cliven Bundy refused to pay 20 years worth of grazing fees for the use of federal landas ordered to by the courts and explained that Bundy “doesn't recognize federal authority” on the land in question, turning the disagreement into a debate about federal land policy. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began confiscating Bundy's cattle, during which armed “states' rights protesters, including militia members, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals' return to rancher Cliven Bundy,” leading the BLM to halt the confiscation, according to the AP:
Federal land managers say “escalating tensions” led them to release all 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land in southern Nevada from a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority.
Bureau of Land Management Chief Neil Kornze announced an abrupt halt to the weeklong roundup just hours before the release.
“Based on information about conditions on the ground and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public,” Kornze said in a statement.
Hundreds of states' rights protesters, including militia members, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals' return to rancher Cliven Bundy. Some protesters were armed with handguns and rifles at the corrals and at an earlier nearby rally.
The fight between Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management widened into a debate about states' rights and federal land-use policy. The dispute that ultimately triggered the roundup dates to 1993, when the bureau cited concern for the federally protected tortoise in the region. The bureau revoked Bundy's grazing rights after he stopped paying grazing fees and disregarded federal court orders to remove his animals.
The 400 cows gathered during the roundup were short of the BLM's goal of 900 cows that it says have been trespassing on U.S. land without required grazing permits for over 20 years.
Bundy, 67, doesn't recognize federal authority on land he insists belongs to Nevada. His Mormon family has operated a ranch since the 1870s near the small town of Bunkerville and the Utah and Arizona lines.
A federal judge in Las Vegas first ordered Bundy to remove his trespassing cattle in 1998. The bureau was implementing two federal court orders last year to remove Bundy's cattle after making repeated efforts to resolve the matter outside court, Kornze said, adding the rancher has not paid grazing fees in 20 years. [Associated Press, 4/13/14]
Rand Paul Spoke Extensively With Cliven Bundy About Land Rights After Armed Standoff
Politico: Paul And Bundy Met Privately To Discuss “Federal Land Oversight And States' Rights.” In a June 30, 2015 article, Politico reported that Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul met privately with Cliven Bundy for 45 minutes after a campaign event in Nevada. While the presidential candidate had no public meetings scheduled, he spoke with Bundy and his family “for the better part of an hour” about “federal land oversight and states' rights.” Bundy also told the Associated Press after the meeting with Paul that "[i]n general, I think we're in tune with each other":
Rand Paul met privately with Cliven Bundy on Monday, the Nevada rancher and anti-government activist told POLITICO.
The encounter came after Bundy attended an event for the Kentucky senator's presidential campaign at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. When the larger group dispersed, Bundy said, he was escorted by Paul's aides to a back room where he and the Republican 2016 contender spoke for approximately 45 minutes. (“There were no scheduled meetings at Senator Paul's stop in Mesquite. He spoke to many people who came to this public event, none for 45 minutes and none planned,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor said.)
The Nevada rancher said that he had expected only to have an opportunity to shake hands with Paul and make small-talk. He was surprised when campaign aides found a private room and allowed Bundy, his wife and son to speak with the candidate for the better part of an hour.
According to Bundy, the two mainly discussed federal land oversight and states' rights, in addition to education policy -- a theme Paul brought up in his speech. [Politico, 6/30/15; Associated Press, 6/29/15]
Paul Supported Bundy's Cause Against Federal Ownership Of Land. ThinkProgress noted that Paul “was one of the earliest endorsers of Cliven Bundy, telling Fox News in 2014, 'There is a legitimate constitutional question here about whether the state should be in charge of endangered species or whether the federal government should be.'” The outlet also noted Paul “rejected classifying Bundy and his gun-toting supporters as domestic terrorists, urging Sen. Harry Reid and others who used the term to 'calm the rhetoric.'” Paul and others later criticized Bundy after he made the racially offensive claim that black Americans may have been better off under slavery. [ThinkProgress, 1/3/16; The New York Times, 4/24/14]
On Meet The Press, Chuck Todd Doesn't Ask Paul About The Bundy Oregon Militia Takeover
Meet The Press' Chuck Todd Did Not Ask Rand Paul About The Takeover During Interview. The day after the armed takeover of a federal building in Oregon began, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd neglected to ask Paul about the militia's actions and his link to the Bundy family in an interview running nearly six minutes. [NBC, Meet the Press, 1/3/16]