Snapping photos of a meeting attended by Energy Secretary Rick Perry was part of Simon Edelman's role as a Department of Energy photographer. Yet he says he lost his job for doing just that, and ensuring the photos were seen. In an interview with the AP, Edelman says he was placed on administrative leave and escorted from DOE headquarters in Washington in December after In These Times published his "public record" photos of the March 29 meeting. They showed Perry hugging Robert Murray—CEO of Murray Energy, one of the largest coal-mining companies in the US, and a longtime Trump supporter—as Murray handed over a four-page document. The New York Times reports it obtained a version of the document that included "16 detailed requests," most of which "the White House and federal agencies have completed or are on track to fulfill."
For example, Murray—who donated $300,000 to Trump's inauguration—requested that the US pull out of the Paris climate accord, end regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and cut staff at the Environmental Protection Agency, per the Times and AP. Edelman, whose DOE contract wasn't renewed when it expired, says Perry told Murray, "I think we can help you on this." He alleges retaliation in a federal whistleblower complaint and asks that he get his job back, or at least the laptop he says was seized before his exit, reports the Times. In response, a DOE rep says Edelman's accusations are motivated by his "personal agenda." "Industry and other stakeholders visit the Department of Energy on a daily basis. The secretary welcomes their input and feedback to strengthen the American energy sector. This meeting was no different." (Murray said Trump promised to help him.)