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John L. Smith On The New Bundy Trial


Mike Blake/Reuters /Landov

Rancher Cliven Bundy stands near a gate on his 160-acre ranch in Bunkerville, Nev., the site of a standoff with the government in April 2014.

Summer is traditionally a time for vacations and slow news days, but lately Las Vegas has been an even hotter news town than usual with one of the most-watched U.S. Senate races, a second criminal trial against the followers of Cliven Bundy, and the latest drama in the rise and potential fall of one of the richest men in the gaming industry.

State of Nevada contributor John Smith joins us to sort it all out. 

Discussion Highlights:

On Jacky Rosen announcing a run for Senate:

She’s just barely unpacked her bags there at the House of Representatives and it turns out she likes that Senate office a little better. Dean Heller is damaged goods and as long as it stays that way he’s beatable. And she obviously sees this as an opportunity. Politics is really about opportunity at some level.

Rosen has said that former Senator Harry Reid asked her to run:

We’re going to have to talk to Jacky Rosen at some point. Harry Reid is supposed to stay behind the curtain. You don’t pull the curtain back. The great and powerful Oz has to stay behind the doggone curtain! You can see that she’s a neophyte when it comes to a lot of politics. What this is all about of course is the Senator sees her as a real rising star potentially. The kind of person who can win a statewide race, at least in theory.

Support comes from

There are others who might be interested in running for Heller’s seat:

I don’t think that Jacky Rosen’s announcement is likely to scare away Dina Titus. If Dina Titus wants to run, she’ll run. She has her own friends in the political sandbox. She can raise money. She can do an awful lot. It wouldn’t probably be the best thing for the party if there was some kind of primary war but Dina Titus as a great deal of experience in the House. She knows politics as well as anybody in Nevada.

This is all about short stopping Dina Titus. I’m sorry. I absolutely believe it. You would at least give the senior member of the congressional delegation – the Democrat – you would at least give them the courtesy to have a skull session if you had that relationship, and obviously, there isn’t one.

On what Democrat will run for and retain Rosen or Titus’ seats:

I look at the last session of the state legislature and there were folks there who were starting to emerge as real leaders - Aaron Ford and others – are out there. I think that there are a lot of folks certainly willing to enter the ring at that level.

On the re-trial of Bundy supporters:

It’s really a fascinating re-trial from this standpoint: two of the four defendants who remain for this re-trial were depicted in photographs pointing their weapons towards federal law enforcement officers. Those were probably the most dramatic photos taken of the thousands and thousands of photos captured by the government many of them used at the trial.

I tend to think this will be a streamlined trial. Some of those who covered it before would hope that it would be more streamlined. But truly, I think the government will tell a better story if you will, a more convincing story. If there is a little less of it. If they focus on these law enforcement officers with court order trying to serve out that court order and provide security, felt intimidated. No matter what you think of the caliber of cop the bottom line is there is evidence there that the previous jury just didn’t take into account I don’t think.

The one thing that the defense did very well is it presented video of its own, photographs of its own that appeared to show federal law enforcement overstepping its bounds, abusing the Bundys and I think that really played with the jury. I think some of the jurors were moved by that video. Some of that video was very dramatic. It would be interesting to see if the prosecution this time shows how those videos may have been staged because there is no question that the Bundys and their supporters were very savvy when it came to understanding the use of the internet, social media.

Cliven Bundy and his sons are going to be on trial soon:

 It’s a really fascinating schedule. It’s going to be all Bundy all the time from here until the end of the year. One sentence has been delayed in one case where someone took a plea bargain. You're going to see a lot of that going on.  A lot of people checking their cards to see whether they want to continue with the trial. It appears to me all defendants are holding together. It’s a fascinating study and because it does relate very much to federal land use in the West. This has become very symbolic. I expect a lot of political groups to pick up on it. And continue to use it for their own purposes politically.




John L. Smith, contributor

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KNPR's State of Nevada