Tribal Leader Says He Witnessed Aggressive Outbursts by Keith Harper; Others Affirm Support for Human Rights Nominee
Gray says he doesn’t know why multiple independent witnesses have confirmed Russell’s allegations, but he adds that he was not with Russell and Harper all of the time after the two meetings. “I wasn’t outside [the first meeting],” he says. “But I didn’t see anything happen during those meetings.” After Gray wrote a February 27 op-ed for ICTMN supporting Harper’s nomination, he says he received a thank you note from Harper by e-mail. “Our relationship has always been professional—we don’t go out to eat, we don’t exchange Christmas cards,” he says.
Harper has not responded to requests for comment about the encounters, and John Page, a spokesman for the Kilpatrick Stockton law office where Harper is a partner, has said Harper cannot comment on any matters during his nomination process.
In response to Gray’s account, Russell says that the earlier incident occurred outside of the meeting, and that Gray was not present there. “Keith followed me outside of the meeting room, which is where it occurred,” she says. “Jim wasn’t there, so he didn’t see it." Regarding the 2010 incident, she says, “I don’t remember Jim anywhere around.”
Berrey says he has personally experienced behavior from Harper similar to the kind Russell alleges.
“He jumped me one time after a hearing on the Senate side and began cussing at me with words you couldn’t believe could come out of somebody’s mouth,” Berrey says, recalling a hearing in 2002 focused on the then-ongoing Cobell litigation and tribal concerns involving the case.
According to Berrey, Harper tends to use “scorched earth” tactics when arguing a position, noting that Harper included “personal attacks, saying I was a fat liar, making fun of my size” in a 2004 D.C. District Court pleading signed by Harper and other Cobell lawyers, including Dennis Gingold, whom Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has relied on as a character witness for Harper during his nomination process.
Harper’s nomination narrowly passed the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in early February with Boxer’s support, and her staff has circulated talking points indicating that the human rights ambassadorship must be filled quickly due to Palestinian and Israeli issues. His nomination currently awaits a vote by the full Senate.
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