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Harry Reid attacks Bundys on Senate floor, calls for Gold Butte protection

With the “outrageous lawbreaker” Cliven Bundy and four of his sons in custody, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada took to the Senate floor Thursday to renew his push to preserve the scenic Gold Butte area northeast of Las Vegas.

Reid proposed a congressional bill in 2013 to create a national conservation area at Gold Butte, a region of rugged mountains, sandstone ridges and Native American petroglyphs.

But the bill has stalled, and the Democratic leader in his Senate speech accused the defiant Bundy family of blocking daily efforts by federal officers to protect the land.

“Because of trouble caused by the Bundys and their pals, the federal employees tasked with safely guarding these antiquities, were prevented from doing their jobs,” he said. “These employees have been under constant physical and mental threat for doing what the American people have tasked them to do.”

The senator still has hopes that President Barack Obama will preserve Gold Butte, something he has the power to do under the law. Obama has made such declarations in the past to protect federal land in Nevada.

Reid also called attention in his speech to the armed takeover of a government wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this year “by a dangerous group of militants” that included Bundy family members.

“This particular episode of domestic terrorism has roots in Nevada, I’m sorry to say,” Reid told his colleagues. “They were led by the sons of Cliven Bundy. Cliven who, as we speak, is where he should be — in jail.”

Reid said the Bundy patriarch has been “breaking federal laws for decades,” adding, “I’m disappointed that some of my colleagues supported this outrageous lawbreaker.”

Bundy is in federal custody facing 16 felony charges stemming from the April 12, 2014, armed standoff with law enforcement near his Bunkerville ranch, which is part of the Gold Butte area.

In court papers earlier this week, his defense lawyer, Joel Hansen, called Bundy a political prisoner — like the late South African president and civil rights activist Nelson Mandela — who is being punished for exercising his First Amendment rights.

“Harry Reid’s comments just serve to prove that Cliven and his sons and the rest of the cowboys who came there (Bunkerville) to help are political prisoners,” Hansen said Thursday. “Now we have one of the most powerful men in America, Harry Reid, saying that they ought to be in prison.

“Is Harry Reid the judge in this case or is he trying to improperly influence and poison the jury pool so that they will follow his opinion when they get to the jury box?”

Bundy, 69, and 18 other people, including four of his sons, were charged in a federal indictment in Las Vegas last month in connection with the 2014 Bunkerville showdown.

All 19 defendants have been ordered held without bail as dangers to the community.

The defendants are alleged to have participated in a “massive armed assault” on Bureau of Land Management officers trying to round up Bundy cattle being grazed illegally on federal land.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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