Pres. Trump to name acting Interior secretary to lead department

Photo: Tim Rains / NPS / (MGN)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he's nominating a Washington veteran with lobbying ties to U.S. energy companies to lead the Interior Department.

David Bernhardt, currently Interior's acting head, would replace Ryan Zinke if the Senate approves his nomination. Zinke resigned in December amid ethics investigations.

Trump tweeted Monday that Bernhardt "has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived."

The Colorado native first served in the department under President George W. Bush. He had been a deputy under Zinke.

Bernhardt also 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.