Trump nominates David Bernhardt to replace Zinke as interior secretary

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Donald Trump has announced by tweet that he is nominating the current acting Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, to serve in the role officially.

If confirmed by the Senate, Bernhardt would replace former Secretary Ryan Zinke who resigned from the Interior Department in December amid questions over his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

The Senate confirmed Bernhardt as deputy secretary by a vote of 53 in favor and 43 against.

In addition to being acting interior secretary, Bernhardt was also deputy chief interior secretary under Zinke, a role for which he received Senate confirmation in 2017.

In response to his nomination, Bernhardt tweeted: "It's a humbling privilege to be nominated to lead a Department whose mission I love, to accomplish the balanced, common sense vision of our President".

When Mulvaney (who still is director of the Office of Management and Budget) gets the permanent White House position (which does not require Senate confirmation), Trump is nearly sure to make Deputy Director Russ Vought acting OMB boss and later send the nomination to the Senate.

As acting secretary, Bernhardt drew criticism in recent weeks from environmental groups, tribes and others for continuing to process paperwork for oil and gas projects while other agencies were closed for routine work during this winter's partial government shutdown.

Mr. Bernhardt, a former energy lobbyist whose clients included oil companies, had been serving in an interim role since Mr. Zinke departed under an ethics cloud at the end of a year ago.

Environmentalists were quick to criticize Trump's decision. "We intend to conduct vigorous oversight of Mr. Bernhardt's industry ties and how they may influence his policy decisions", Grijalva said in a statement.

Republicans say Bernhardt's revolving-door experience makes him an informed regulator in matters before the agency.

After working under Bush, Bernhardt worked as a lawyer and lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, for water and oil interests.

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