Trump nominates former Bush official for key role

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The Trump administration announced on Friday it has nominated a former Bush administration official, David Bernhardt, to serve as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

If confirmed by the Senate, Bernhardt will return to the same department that he oversaw for eight years during the former George W. Bush administration.

According to a press release from the White House, Bernhardt previously served as the United States commissioner to the International Boundary Commission: U.S. and Canada. He also held several positions within the Department of the Interior between 2001 and 2009, including, after unanimous confirmation, serving as the solicitor, which is the Interior’s third-ranking official and chief legal officer.

Bernhardt presently serves as chair of the natural resource law firm at Brownstein, Hyatt Farber and Schreck LLP.

Zinke, whom Bernhardt would serve under, issued a statement on Friday praising the nominee’s extensive experience, saying he is “exactly what is needed to help streamline government and make the Interior and our public lands work for the American economy.”

However, not everyone is offering sentiments of praise for his nomination, which is already drawing criticism from those upset that Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” of powerful lobbyist influence over the White House.

Meanwhile, others are raising concerns over a possible conflict of interest because of his firm’s involvement on Interior regulation issues.

The Hill reports that the Western Values Project on Wednesday sued the Interior Department and is requesting documents pertaining to Bernhardt’s tenure under the Bush administration. The group’s executive director, Chris Steger, issued a statement saying, “We will aggressively pursue this litigation until that information has been released to the public,” and added, “There shouldn’t be any secrets about Mr. Bernhardt if he stands a chance of becoming one of the most powerful figures at Interior.”

 

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