Moments after signing an executive order to push forward the intensely disputed Dakota Access pipeline, President Donald Trump ignored a reporter's question about Native American protesters who have fiercely opposed the project.
"Mr. Trump, any comment to the Standing Rock community and the protesters out there?" a reporter in the Oval Office asked after the president finished signing five executive orders.
Trump put his head down, pursed his lips and looked in the opposite direction. He then responded to a question about when he expected to make a Supreme Court nomination.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, as well as environmentalists from around the country, have fought the pipeline project on the grounds that it crosses beneath a lake that provides drinking water to Native Americans. They say the route beneath Lake Oahe puts the water source in jeopardy and would destroy sacred land.
Tribal members and protesters have camped out for months in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in opposition to the pipeline.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposed Trump's executive action on Tuesday and vowed to take legal action, Reuters reported. A lawyer for the tribe said Trump acted "hastily and irresponsibly."
In December, the Army Corps of Engineers said it would deny Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners the easement it needs to complete the final stretch of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline.
Trump did not consult the Standing Rock or other Sioux tribes before signing the executive orders, said Tom B.K. Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
"These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples. The actions by the president today demonstrate that this Administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry," he said in a statement Tuesday.
During a news briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump will work with all parties involved as his administration attempts to advance the project.
"There's a way that you can continue to negotiate that, whether it's the Native Americans, concerns that they have on some of the lands," Spicer said.
"He is willing to sit down with all of the individuals that are involved in the Dakota pipeline to make sure that it's a deal that benefits ... all of the parties of interest, or at least gets them something that they want."