DOE Staffer Claims Retaliation Over Photos of Secret Meeting - NBC 10 Philadelphia
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's presidency

DOE Staffer Claims Retaliation Over Photos of Secret Meeting

Simon Edelman has filed a federal whistleblower complaint alleging he sent photos of Secretary Rick Perry and a coal baron to media outlets

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    DOE Staffer Claims Retaliation Over Photos of Secret Meeting
    Simon Edelman, Dept. of Energy via AP
    This March 29, 2017, photo obtained by the Associated Press, shows Robert Murray of Murray Energy, right, meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry at the Department of Energy headquarters in Washington.

    A former photographer at the Department of Energy says he lost his job in retaliation for making public photos of a meeting between Secretary Rick Perry and a coal baron peddling a wish list of policy initiatives that would directly benefit his company.

    Simon Edelman has filed a federal whistleblower complaint alleging he was terminated from the agency after he provided the photos to two media outlets that published them in December. Edelman was at the March 29, 2017, meeting snapping shots as Robert "Bob" Murray handed Perry a four-page "action plan" to revive the nation's struggling coal industry. Murray is chairman and CEO of Ohio-based Murray Energy, one of the nation's largest coal producers.

    Also attending the meeting were Perry's chief of staff and Andrew Wheeler, a coal company lobbyist later nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as the second-highest ranking official at the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Copies of the plan were obtained earlier this month by The Associated Press and other media outlets. A review of the plan shows many of the proposals provided by the major GOP political donor were later advanced by the Trump administration.

    Pompeo Visits Saudi Arabia With Concerns Over Missing Writer

    [NATL] Pompeo Visits Saudi Arabia With Concerns Over Missing Journalist

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Tuesday after concerns of missing journalist Jamal Kashoggi prompted calls for an investigation into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Kashoggi was last seen. Kashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was a frequent critic of the prince. 

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018)

    Edelman and his lawyer, John Tye, are seeking a formal Justice Department investigation into what they allege was corrupt conduct by a public official. Edelman also filed a complaint with Energy's inspector general and a Senate oversight committee.

    In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Edelman said he listened in as Murray detailed the actions he wanted the Trump administration to take. They included replacing members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accords and revoking the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama's signature effort to limit planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants.

    Edelman said he heard Perry respond, "I think we can help you on this."

    Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes denied anything improper occurred during the meeting.

    "The assertions that this individual has made about Secretary Perry and the Department of Energy are ridiculous," Hynes said Wednesday. "Industry and other stakeholders visit the Department of Energy on a daily basis. The secretary welcomes their input and feedback to strengthen the American energy sector."

    Hynes did not address Edelman's claims of retaliation.

    When Kanye Met Trump: ‘You Are Tasting a Fine Wine’

    [NATL] Kanye West's Visit With Trump: 'Fine Wine,' 'Alternate Universe' And Other Moments

    Kanye West spoke for nearly 10 minutes straight while visiting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office Thursday. Here were some notable moments from the meeting.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018)

    Gary Broadbent, a spokesman for Murray, said the coal company CEO does not have a recollection of the exact statements he might have made in the meeting, which occurred nearly a year ago.

    "Mr. Murray has frequently said that the Trump administration must advance reliable and low-cost electricity for all Americans and protect coal mining jobs," Broadbent said. "We applaud the actions taken by President Trump's administration, to date, to protect these jobs and to advance the energy security of the United States."

    Records show Murray Energy contributed $300,000 to Trump's inaugural committee and has financially backed the campaigns of Perry, a former Texas governor and presidential candidate.

    The AP reported last year that Murray had asked the Trump administration to issue an emergency order protecting coal-fired power plants from closing. Murray warned that failure to act could cause thousands of coal miners to be laid off and force his largest customer, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Solutions, into bankruptcy.

    Perry ultimately rejected Murray's specific request, but later asked FERC to boost coal and nuclear plants by subsidizing their continued operation. The Republican-controlled commission voted unanimously earlier this month to reject Perry's claim that further retirements of coal-fired power plants pose a threat to the reliability of the nation's electric grid.

    Edelman said he was placed on administrative leave and subsequently dismissed from the agency in December after the photos of the meeting were published by In These Times, a left-leaning news site. He said he was escorted by the building by security and said some of his personal property was seized, including a laptop computer, photo equipment and three external hard drives. Edelman is demanding the return of his property as part of his complaint.

    Trump Doesn’t Want to Sanction Saudis Over Missing Writer

    [NATL] Trump Doesn’t Want to Sanction Saudis Over Missing Writer

    Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor, is missing and feared dead after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. President Donald Trump says he wants to learn more about the incident but does not want to place sanctions on Saudi Arabia.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018)

    The photographer said he was motivated to make the photos public after seeing a published interview where he believes Murray misrepresented what occurred in the March meeting. Edelman said the free market should determine which sources of energy are profitable, not government regulations favoring a specific industry or company.

    The photos were not classified and he believes he had a First Amendment right to release them.

    "They're angry at me, but I didn't do anything wrong," Edelman said. "The Department of Energy are the ones breaking the law. And they kept all my stuff."