Donald Trump’s backing of a controversial oil and gas pipeline through a Native American reservation has nothing to do with his investment in the energy company, says his campaign.
This week the president-elect announced his official backing of the Dakota Access pipeline, which cuts through several states and threatens to pollute the Missouri river and destroy Native American historical artifacts and burial grounds.
He has a stake in the company building the pipeline, called Energy Transfer Partners, and he has a stake in Phillips 66, which holds a share of the project.
His team said the support of the pipeline "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."
"Those making such a claim are only attempting to distract from the fact that President-elect Trump has put forth serious policy proposals he plans to set in motion on Day One," read the note to campaign and congressional staff.
His investment in the company has dropped from between $500,000 and $1 million in 2015 to between $1,500 and $50,000 this year. As reported by the Guardian, his stake in Phillips 66 rose between $50,000 and $100,000 last year to between $250,000 and $500,000, according to the forms.
Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, has given almost $169,000 to Mr Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Activists have spent months protesting the $3.8 billion plans, and have recently endured violent action from the police, including water cannons, pepper spray and police dogs.
North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple ordered the immediate evacuation of the protest camp as of this week, and the state’s Republican senator, John Hoeven, said he met with Mr Trump and urged him to support the pipeline construction.
The US Army corps of engineers has similarly threatened to evacuate the camps, saying that anyone found on land north of the Cannonball River could be arrested with trespassing.
Although president Barack Obama suggested the army was looking at an alternate route for the pipeline, ETP has vowed to push ahead with the project.