Zinke resigned Wednesday amid a flurry of scandals. David Bernhardt, the agency’s No. 2 and a former energy lobbyist, has stepped in as acting secretary.
David Bernhardt, the Interior Department’s No. 2 official and a former fossil fuel lobbyist, took over Wednesday as acting secretary after the resignation of scandal-plagued agency chief Ryan Zinke.
With Democrats on Thursday taking back control of the House of Representatives — and the powerful subpoena authority that comes with it — they have vowed to investigate Zinke’s conduct and policy decisions.
Zinke, a former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL, faced nearly 20 federal investigations. Several are ongoing, and one has been referred by Interior’s internal watchdog to the Justice Department for possible criminal violations. He has maintained he did nothing wrong and blamed his departure on “vicious and politically motivated attacks.”
By midday Wednesday, his Twitter profile read “former secretary.” In a farewell message posted to the social media site, he said it was a “high honor to serve @POTUS & the American People.”
“We’ve restored public lands ‘for the benefit & enjoyment of the people,’ improved public access & shall never be held hostage again for our energy needs,” Zinke wrote.
Trump has not nominated a permanent replacement, as he said he would do in a post to Twitter last month. But several names have surfaced as contenders for the role, including Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and outgoing Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Whoever Trump taps must be confirmed by the Senate.