Trump will nominate David Bernhardt as interior secretary

Olive Hawkins
February 5, 2019

President Donald Trump says he's nominating a Colorado native and Washington veteran with lobbying ties to USA energy companies to lead the Interior Department. Zinke left the Trump administration in January amid mounting federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

In formally sending Bernhardt's nomination to the Senate, Trump wrote on Twitter that Bernhardt was doing "a fantastic job" as acting secretary and deserved confirmation.

The Interior Department, which employs more than 70,000 people and oversees more than 20 per cent of the US land surface, has played a large role in Trump's "energy dominance" policy of boosting energy production.

"Our new leaders in Congress can demonstrate respect for our country's most unique natural treasures by not only holding both Zinke and Bernhardt accountable for possible ethical violations, but by only confirming an Interior secretary who wishes to strengthen and protect public lands and waters, not destroy them for corporate gain", Wyatt concluded. The Colorado native first served in the department during the George W. Bush administration and had been deputy secretary under Zinke.

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Bernhardt was a lobbyist at the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where his clients included Eni Petroleum, Sempra Energy and the Westlands Water District. If he is approved by the Senate, Bernhardt is expected to continue that work.

Critics say Bernhardt's previous work as a lobbyist could risk conflicts of interest, unless he recuses himself from certain issues, because he worked for companies that could benefit by opening up lands to development.

Bernhardt will still have to be confirmed by the Senate.

The president now has an acting defense secretary, acting attorney general, acting chief of staff, acting ambassador to the United Nations and acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Wheeler is a staunch proponent of Trump's energy dominance agenda to produce oil, gas and coal for both domestic use and export.

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