North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp gave a pass to those behind reports of physical and sexual abuse at Native schools during the 1990s, Fox News reports. Heitkamp was the attorney general for North Dakota at the time.
As the top law enforcement officer in the state, Heitkamp was responsible for the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation assessing allegations of assault at the Wahpeton Indian School, which has since changed its name to the Circle of Nations School. The facility, then as now, served as a boarding school for at-risk Native youths. Yet despite the allegations of abuse being confirmed by not one but five different investigations, Heitkamp took no action to prosecute the suspects.
The senator is currently locked in an increasingly difficult struggle to retain her seat from Republican challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer, who a Fox News poll indicates is leading his opponent by 12 points. Heitkamp, always vulnerable in a Red State that supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election, has slipped further into disrepute after she voted against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
In explaining why she could not back Kavanaugh, Heitkamp in a tweet cited the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against the judge, talked about “stopping sexual assault,” and insisted, “Our actions right now are a poignant signal to young girls and women across the country. I will continue to stand up for them.”
But when she had to decide whether to act against the accused at the Native school, Heitkamp agreed with a state attorney who in 1994 provided an opinion not to proceed with any charges. That was the end of the matter for Heitkamp.
The Senator’s press secretary told Fox News that Heitkamp did take some action in response to the problems at the school.
“As the state’s top law enforcement officer, Heidi took all of the action within her jurisdiction, including recommendations to improve conditions at the school and has continued work for our Native communities in the Senate,” Sean Higgins said.