Trump's new cabinet secretary hit with investigation after only 4 days
In what has to be some sort of record, Trump's new Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, is facing an ethics investigation a mere four days after he was confirmed for the job.
The Inspector General of the Department of the Interior confirmed yesterday that it received complaints from several lawmakers and conservation groups and has opened a probe into Bernhardt's conflicts of interests and other potential ethics violations.
Those conflicts of interest are legion. In fact, Bernhardt literally has to carry a card around that lists his conflicts, because that's the only way he can keep track of which companies he needs to avoid.
There are questions about whether Bernhardt got a small fish removed from the endangered species list to benefit a former lobbying client.
There are also allegations that Bernhardt was destroying his official calendars, which is a violation of federal records retention laws. He even admitted that he doesn't typically keep daily calendars and failed to disclose meetings with industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute.
Bernhardt was already entangled in corruption when he was confirmed for his previous job as deputy secretary of the interior. During that confirmation hearing in May 2017, he stated he had not lobbied on behalf of agribusiness clients since November 2016. He actually lobbied for them up to April 2017.
While serving as deputy secretary — a job where he was supposed to help oversee things like oil and gas drilling — Bernhardt gave a keynote address to a group of oil and gas executives. Even better, the meeting was at the Trump International Hotel.
A CNN investigation found that during his time as deputy interior secretary, Bernhardt made at least 15 policy decisions that favored his lobbying clients. He also oversaw a massive expansion of onshore drilling permits issued during the government shutdown.
There's even more. The Fish and Wildlife Service spent years studying two pesticides and determined they presented a considerable threat to already-endangered species. They were set to announce the findings — until Bernhardt intervened and ordered the Service to take a new approach that had been pushed by pesticide makers.
Bernhardt's behavior is entirely in keeping with the rest of Trump's Cabinet, a phenomenal number of whom are ethically challenged. In fact, Bernhardt replaced the embattled Ryan Zinke, who was facing a staggering 17 ethics investigations when he was asked to resign.
With all of these scandals, it looks like Bernhardt is trying to give Zinke a run for his money.
Published with permission of The American Independent. Attribution: Lisa Needham.