Trump’s Interior Secretary Didn’t Violate Ethics Rules, Watchdog Finds

An inspector general’s report found no evidence that David Bernhardt had improperly favored a group that once employed him as a lobbyist.

January 19, 2023

The inspector general for the Interior Department said on Thursday it had found no evidence that the former secretary, David Bernhardt, violated federal ethics or conflict-of-interest rules when the department made decisions that affected one of his former clients, a California water district.

The Interior Department under Mr. Bernhardt made decisions that benefited Westlands Water District, which represents California farmers, including a deal to grant federal water rights in perpetuity to a large agricultural district. Before joining the Trump administration, Mr. Bernhardt spent 10 years as the group’s chief lobbyist.

In a report issued Thursday, investigators said evidence did not support allegations that Mr. Bernhardt withheld information, worked on issues that presented a conflict, or sought to help his former client.


“He’s a smart lawyer,” said Representative Jared Huffman, a California Democrat who has requested federal investigations of Mr. Bernhardt. “He knows how to engage where he has a patina of legal cover and how to keep himself out of trouble. It doesn’t mean that there’s not a foul smell to his involvement in these issues that so directly benefited his former client.”


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By:  Lisa Friedman
Source: New York Times