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Trump Advisor Joseph Schmitz Promotes Anti-Indian and Anti-Muslim Bigotry, Calls for End to the Vote for People Receiving Public Assistance.

A top foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump is part of a Western Montana campaign against the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). Joseph E. Schmitz’s involvement in a failed lawsuit attempting to block tribal management of a dam located on the Flathead Reservation (home to the Tribes) also demonstrates how anti-Muslim bigotry increasingly accompanies attacks on tribal communities.

Schmitz was named by Trump as one of five foreign policy advisors in mid-March. In September 2015, Joseph E. Schmitz joined Lawrence Kogan as co-counsel in Keenan et al v. Bay et al, a lawsuit filed on behalf of Montana State Senator Bob Keenan (R-Bigfork) and former state Senator Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell). The lawsuit sought to block CSKT acquisition of the former Kerr Dam. The structure was renamed the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ dam when the tribally-owned Energy Keepers, Inc. assumed its management.

Lawrence Kogan is closely allied with the anti-Indian Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA). CERA aims to terminate tribes and abrogate treaties between the United States and Indian Nations. Kogan hired longtime CERA leader Elaine Willman to assist with the case and has spoken at multiple events with the group’s leaders. Kogan and Schmitz’s brief in the anti-CSKT lawsuit gained infamy for alleging that the dam transfer could allow the Turkish government and terrorists to obtain nuclear materials and poses a threat to national security. Rejecting the lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras referenced the brief’s “somewhat perplexing arguments regarding the Turkish Government’s involvement with Native Americans,” concluding that “counsel for Plaintiffs conceded that no such evidence has been submitted relating to the Plaintiffs’ alleged economic harm.” (See American Lands Council and the Anti-Indian Movement). Kogan and Willman have continued to press the CSKT-Muslim terrorist conspiracy theory in 2016 (See Bigoted Nationalism and CERA-allied Attorney Tours).

Joseph Schmitz is a founding partner of Schmitz & Socarras LLP, a Maclean, Virginia-based law firm that “serves multinational companies and investors worldwide,” representing them in regulatory and technology issues as well as mergers and acquisitions. Schmitz served as Inspector General for the Department of Defense under George W. Bush. After leaving the DoD, Schmitz became general counsel for the Prince Group, the parent company of the private mercenary firm Blackwater.[1]

Schmitz is also a “Insider” with the right-wing Newsmax. This Florida-based online publication hosts writers that run the gamut from paleo-conservative Pat Buchanan to libertarian Ron Paul and neo-conservative Charles Krauthammer.  In his “Support and Defend” column, Schmitz assails Obamacare and writes on Middle East policy.  In February 2016 Schmitz argued in a Newsmax article that people receiving public support should be barred from voting. Misleadingly citing the 27th Amendment (barring Congressional pay-raises from going into effect before another election is held) as precedent, Schmitz writes,

[T]he same type of obvious conflict of interest arises when individual citizens who voluntarily chose to be dependent on public welfare are allowed to vote. The good news is that the states, through legislation or state constitutional amendments, can and should enact common sense laws to protect the integrity of the voting process. A ‘Voter Integrity Amendment’ could be as simple as this: Section 1. The right to vote in this state shall be conditioned on the citizens not being voluntarily dependent on public welfare.[2]

Joseph Schmitz is well at home with the anti-Muslim tenor of Kogan’s anti-CSKT lawsuit, having supported Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the United States, according to the Washington Post.[3] Schmitz is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a Washington, D.C-based think tank and leading force promoting the idea that Islamic sharia law is taking over the United States. A 2010 CSP report co-authored by Schmitz and titled Sharia: The Threat to America, stated,

Evidence of the extent to which sharia is being insinuated into the fabric of American society abounds … Few Americans are aware of the diversity and success to date of such efforts to insinuate sharia into the United States – let alone the full implications of the mortal threat this totalitarian doctrine represents to our freedoms, society and government… The net result of these combined forces is that the United States has been infiltrated and deeply influenced by an enemy within that is openly determined to replace the U.S. Constitution with sharia …Multiculturalism, political correctness, misguided notions of tolerance and sheer willful blindness have combined to create an atmosphere of confusion and denial in America about the current threat confronting the nation.[4]

Casting sharia as a singular and inherently evil set of ideas and practices is little more than a mask for bigotry and attacks on the civil and human rights of Muslims. Sharia is largely a system of personal religious and moral codes practiced by many Muslims. A small percentage of Muslims have used sharia to justify bigotry and violence – not unlike how the Christian Right deploys selective and distorted versions of the Bible to do the same. To date exactly zero U.S. jurisdictions have adopted sharia law. The same number can be expected to do so in the future.

Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy for Ronald Reagan, and notorious Islamophobe, wrote in March 16, 2016 that,

In remarks last week, Donald Trump once again made headlines about the threat we face from Islamic supremacism. As he succinctly put it, ‘Islam hates us.’…There is no getting around the fact that the practice of Islam as defined by the faith’s authorities …is hateful towards those like us, who believe that our government should be defined by a man-made Constitution, not by the dictates of a deity like Allah codified in a doctrine like sharia…[L]et’s hope that Donald Trump’s latest comments about Islam will be but the beginning of a serious and informed national debate. (italics in original)[5]

Joseph Schmitz’s role in the anti-CSKT lawsuit dovetails with Donald Trump’s own anti-Indian bent. The reality TV star cum ultra-nationalist bigot has displayed anti-tribal leanings most prominently in attacks on tribal casinos. Trump has assailed the right of tribes to create casinos under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Casinos have a played an important role for many tribes in economic development and funding social programs. While forming a casino is an act of inherent tribal sovereignty, the IGRA actually constrained tribal rights by giving states some leverage in casino development processes.

Speaking against tribal casino plans in Connecticut in the mid-1990s, Trump declared that tribal casinos were taking money from the State of Connecticut, churches and “old people.” Trump inaccurately alleged that tribal casinos would become centers of organized crime, disparaging that “an Indian chief is going to tell ‘Joey Killer’ to please get off his reservation.” “They don’t look like Indians,” Trump told a Congressional committee, speaking of tribal leaders in Connecticut where a then-planned Trump casino was in competition with the Mashantucket Pequot’s Foxwood casino.[6]

Trump has also defended the Washington, D.C. NFL franchise team name, stating in true racist-white-guy fashion, “Honestly, I don’t think they should change the name, unless the owner wanted to…I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name. They think it’s a positive.”[7] Multiple Native and non-Native groups have condemned team owner Dan Snyder’s commitment to keeping a racial slur as a team name.

Joseph Schmitz’s involvement in Kogan and CERA’s attack on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe’s shows once again that the anti-Indian movement is part-and-parcel of a broader attack on civil and human rights.


[1] Schmitz and Socarras, LLP.

[2] Schmitz, Joseph E. Time to End Welfare Abuse. Newsmax. Time to End Welfare Abuse. February 19, 2016.

[3] Parker, Ashley and Maggie Haberman. Donald Trump Pushes Serious Image in the Capital. Washington Post. March 21, 2016.

[4] Center for Security Policy. 2010. Sharia: The Threat to America. An Exercise in Competitive Analysis—Report of Team B II.

[5] Gaffney, Frank. Does Islam ‘Hate’ Us?.

[6] NBC Today Show. Donald Trump Fights Indian Casinos. August 8, 1994.; Noisecat, Julian Brave. Donald Trump Was Also A Dirtbag to Native Americans. The Huffington Post. August 12, 2015.

[7] Rappeport, Alan. Donald Trump and Jeb Bush Find Common Ground on Washington’s Football Team. New York Times. October 5, 2015.

Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

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