Sen. Joe Manchin will support the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning, President Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management, his office confirmed — despite her alleged involvement in an eco-terrorist plot.
A spokesperson for Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the most influential lawmakers as a moderate in the tightly divided Senate, said Monday that the senator would support Stone-Manning amid concerns about her ability to get confirmed.
His decision comes as the environmental regulator’s nomination appeared to be in jeopardy.
Last Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) formally called on Biden to pull Stone-Manning’s nomination over her alleged involvement in an eco-terrorist plot.
“We now know that President Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Land Management lied to the Senate about her alleged participation in eco-terrorism,” the nation’s top-ranking elected Republican said in a statement. “The White House should immediately withdraw her nomination.”
The Kentucky Republican’s calls were in response to a Fox News report linking Stone-Manning, who previously served as an aide to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), to a “tree-spiking” operation intended to derail logging efforts in the 1980s.
Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Manchin chairs, recently sent a letter to Biden calling on him to rethink his nomination, accusing Stone-Manning of making “false and misleading statements in a sworn statement” to the panel.
According to Merkley, she later testified against those involved in the plot in 1993 and was granted legal immunity for testifying that she retyped and sent an anonymous letter to the U.S. Forest Service on behalf of her former roommate, saying that 500 pounds of spikes had been jammed into trees in Idaho.
Former U.S. Forest Service investigator Michael Merkley, who was involved with the probe into the tree-spiking case, disputed Stone-Manning’s account to the panel, alleging she helped plan the 1989 spiking incident while involved with the environmental group Earth First while she was in graduate school.
“She was aware that she was being investigated in 1989 and again in 1993 when she agreed to the immunity deal with the government to avoid criminal felony prosecution,” he said in a letter sent to the panel, adding that “Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander nor was she a victim in the case.”
“Let me be clear. Ms. Stone-Manning only came forward after her attorney struck the immunity deal, and not before she was caught,” Merkley wrote in a letter to the committee.
“At no time did she come forward of her own volition, and she was never entirely forthcoming,” he wrote.
Tester has come to Stone-Manning’s defense, telling reporters in the wake of the Fox report last week that, “I have worked with this woman very, very closely. She’s more solid than a lot of the people that are attacking her.”
As for the criticism itself, Tester called it “a lot of crap [that] is not correct.”
The White House has also stood by their nominee, calling her “exceptionally qualified.”
“Tracy Stone-Manning is a dedicated public servant who has years of experience and a proven track record of finding solutions and common ground when it comes to our public lands and waters,” a statement from the administration read.