POLSON – Remember the lawsuit late last summer that sought to stop the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes from acquiring Kerr Dam, in part because the plaintiffs claimed CSKT was doing business with Turkish enterprises they said might be affiliated with terrorists who want to blow up the dam?
The lawsuit that said it was possible Turkey was seeking to acquire raw nuclear materials from American Indian reservations for military purposes, and “would provide Turkey and such organizations with the opportunity to more freely promote their brand of Islam on reservations”?
One of the two attorneys who filed the lawsuit, Joseph Schmitz, is now one of the top foreign policy advisers to Donald Trump.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee identified Schmitz as one of his top five foreign policy advisers in an interview with the Washington Post this spring, before Trump had won enough delegates to clinch the GOP nomination.
The lawsuit was withdrawn shortly after a federal judge denied its request for an emergency restraining order that would have temporarily blocked the tribes from acquiring the hydroelectric project, now known as Selis Knaska Qlispe Dam, last September.
U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Cantreras noted the lawsuit’s “somewhat perplexing arguments regarding the Turkish government’s involvement with Native Americans” in denying the request.
“Nowhere are those allegations substantiated in the record,” the judge added. “Indeed, at hearing, counsel for the plaintiffs conceded that no such evidence has been submitted.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of state Sen. Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork, and former state Sen. Verdell Jackson, R-Kalispell, by Schmitz, whose law firm is in McLean, Virginia, and New York City attorney Lawrence Kogan.
Two weeks after the lawsuit was withdrawn, Keenan joined six other state legislators on a tour of the dam with officials from the tribally owned corporation that operates it, Energy Keepers.
Keenan told the Missoulian that day that while he still had concerns, the lawsuit had contained several issues he did not agree with, including the ones relating to Turkey.
“It ended up being a lawyer in New York with 14 pages of concerns that I told him I didn’t want any part of,” Keenan said in October. “I walked away from that.”
After long insisting he was his own foreign policy adviser, Trump in March named five people he was relying on for advice on foreign affairs to the Washington Post editorial board.
Since then, Schmitz has primarily drawn attention for his tenure as inspector general of the Department of Defense during the George W. Bush administration. He was accused by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, of blocking investigations of Bush administration officials, and accepting gifts from lobbyists.
A later investigation cleared him of wrongdoing, but Schmitz resigned in 2005 amid new allegations that he obstructed an FBI investigation of another Bush appointee to the Department of Defense. He also drew criticism for then accepting a job with the parent company of Blackwater, a controversial Defense Department private contractor.
But Native Americans and others are also taking note of Schmitz’ involvement in the lawsuit involving the dam on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights said Schmitz and Kogan’s brief in the lawsuit “gained infamy for alleging that the dam transfer could allow the Turkish government and terrorists to obtain nuclear materials and pose a threat to national security.”
Schmitz’s involvement in the lawsuit, and ties to Trump, “shows once again that the anti-Indian movement is part-and-parcel of a broader attack on civil and human rights,” the institute says.
It also says Schmitz has argued that states should enact laws or amend their constitutions to prevent American citizens who are “voluntarily dependent on public welfare” from voting.
At Indian Country Today, columnist Steve Russell, an associate professor at Indiana University and former Texas trial court judge, wrote that “the ‘legal’ theory asserted to keep the tribes from acquiring the dam is particularly pertinent to Joseph Schmitz’s foreign policy bona fides.”
“While it is true that most Turks are Muslims and there are some people in this country who think all Muslims are terrorists, those ideas have little currency in the fact-based community that dominates most foreign policy discussion,” Russell wrote.
“It is not true that the Salish and Kootenai people have had any dealing with Turkey about hydropower, let alone nuclear materials,” he added.
In addition to Schmitz, Trump named the following people as his top foreign policy advisers to the Post:
- J. Keith Kellogg Jr., retired Army lieutenant general and former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
- Carter Page, founder of Global Energy Capital and a former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
- George Papadopoulus, a 2009 graduate of DePaul University who directs an international energy center at the London Center of International Law Practice.
- Walid Phares, a 2012 adviser to GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Fox News analyst and provost at BAU International University, founded in 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Schmitz, however, has seemed to garner the most scrutiny since Trump named him as one of his top foreign policy advisers. His family is not unaccustomed to such attention.
Schmitz’s father, John G. Schmitz, was a Republican member of Congress from California in the early 1970s, and a candidate for president of the United States, on the conservative American Independent Party ticket, in 1972. A long-time member of the John Birch Society, he was eventually expelled for rhetoric the society felt was too extreme.
John Schmitz’s plans to seek a U.S. Senate seat in California in 1982 were derailed when it was revealed he had fathered two children during an extramarital affair with a student at Santa Ana College, where he had taught philosophy and political science prior to entering politics.
Joseph Schmitz’s sister, Mary Kay Letourneau, was a married 34-year-old teacher in the Seattle suburb of Burien when she was convicted of raping a 12-year-old student starting in 1996. She was released from prison in 2004 and married the student in 2005, when he was 21 and she was 43. She now goes by Mary Kay Fualaau.