More than a month after President Trump signaled he would pick David Bernhardt to run the Interior Department, he finally made the selection official Friday.
Bernhardt, 49, has guided the department as acting secretary since Jan. 2, when Ryan Zinke resigned amid multiple ethics probes. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee can now begin the process of preparing for Bernhardt’s nomination hearing.
If confirmed, the Colorado native would be well positioned to roll back even more of the Obama-era conservation policies he has worked to unravel since rejoining Interior.
“David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!” Trump tweeted Feb. 4.
Bernhardt is a former Capitol Hill staffer who served as Interior’s top lawyer under President George W. Bush, and set out to master law and policy in a bid to advance conservative agendas. But as a former partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he has so many potential conflicts of interest at Interior that he has said he carries a small card listing them all.
He has had to recuse himself from “particular matters” directly affecting 26 former clients to conform with the Trump administration’s ethics pledge.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, said Bernhardt’s past as a lobbyist makes him “the most conflicted” choice of all of Trump’s nominees based on the number of people he represented “with business before the department he would be running.”