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Trump taps David Bernhardt for Interior secretary post

Ryan Zinke to resign

President Trump says he'll nominate Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to take the job permanently. Mr. Trump announced the nomination in a tweet Monday. 

"I am pleased to announce that David Bernhardt, Acting Secretary of the Interior, will be nominated as Secretary of the Interior," the president tweeted. "David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!"

Bernhardt replaces former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who stepped down amid multiple congressional investigations. Bernhardt was confirmed as deputy secretary in 2017. 

David Bernhardt
President Trump and David Bernhardt seen in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2019. Reuters

"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," Bernhardt tweeted in response to the president's announcement. 

Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the oil, gas and water industries, a point that has drawn criticism from environmentalists. 

Center for Western Priorities' Executive Director Jennifer Rokala called Bernhardt's nomination "an affront to America's parks and public lands." 

"As an oil and gas lobbyist, Bernhardt pushed to open vast swaths of public lands for drilling and mining," she said in a statement. "As deputy secretary, he was behind some of the worst policy decisions of Secretary Zinke's sad tenure, including stripping protections for imperiled wildlife. Bernhardt even used the government shutdown to approve drilling permits for companies linked to his former clients."

Bernhardt has kept a relatively low profile in the weeks since taking the acting position. He did appear with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in a very brief visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on MLK Day last month.

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