Trump says he will nominate David Bernhardt for secretary of interior

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.

Bernhardt has led the department on an acting basis since Zinke left in January. He is widely expected to continue pushing the Trump administration's plan to boost domestic fossil fuels production, by opening more US public lands to drilling and mining. Zinke had been facing multiple investigations into potential ethics violations at the time of his departure.

The Interior Department, which employs more than 70,000 people and oversees more than 20 per cent of the USA land surface, has played a large role in Trump's "energy dominance" policy of boosting energy production. Bernhardt is an attorney who held positions at the Interior Department during the George W. Bush administration.

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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. He represented Noble Energy Co., Rosemont Copper Co., Sempra Energy, and California's Westlands Water District, among others.

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. Democrats and environmental groups say he's vulnerable to conflicts of interest. Bernhardt will have to be confirmed by the Senate before he can officially take over. The president now 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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