President Trump announced Monday that he will nominate acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt for the position permanently, tweeting that Bernhardt had “done a fantastic job from the day he arrived.”
Bernhardt has headed the Department of the Interior since former secretary Ryan Zinke departed the post at the end of last year amid a number of ethics controversies. The Colorado native first served in the department during the George W. Bush administration and had been deputy secretary under Zinke.
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.”
The nomination came one day after Trump shrugged off the number of acting secretaries in his Cabinet, telling CBS’ “Face The Nation” that “it’s easier to make moves when they’re acting.”
“I like [having] acting [department secretaries] because I can move so quickly,” Trump told host Margaret Brennan. “It gives me more flexibility.” The president currently has an acting defense secretary, acting attorney general, acting chief of staff, acting ambassador to the United Nations and acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
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If confirmed by the Senate, Bernhardt will be in charge of an agency with an $11 billion budget and 70,000 employees. The department is charged with overseeing drilling, grazing and other uses of public lands.
Last week, Bloomberg News reported that Trump had interviewed former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and current U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, for the position along with Bernhardt.
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Before rejoining government service, Bernhardt worked as a lobbyist and lawyer for several oil and gas companies and other interests that sometimes have regulatory matters before the department.
Republicans say Bernhardt’s revolving-door experience makes him an informed regulator in matters before the agency. Democrats and environmental groups say he’s vulnerable to conflicts of interest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.