Interior Inspector General Opens Probe Of Half-Dozen Trump Political Appointees

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 28: A demonstrator wears a Creature from the Black Lagoon mask as David Bernhardt, President Donald Trump's nominee to be Interior Secretary, testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resour... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 28: A demonstrator wears a Creature from the Black Lagoon mask as David Bernhardt, President Donald Trump's nominee to be Interior Secretary, testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing on March 28, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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April 23, 2019 7:10 p.m.

The Interior Department’s inspector general’s office has opened an investigation into whether several senior political appointees improperly met with their former employers and clients, CNN first reported Tuesday.

In a letter to the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the watchdog group that submitted a complaint calling for an investigation on Feb. 20, Interior Department Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall confirmed that “a related investigation has been opened.” CLC published a copy of the confirmation letter, which is dated April 18, on Tuesday.

The 82-page CLC complaint from February names six former lobbyists, lawyers and other conservative figures who accepted political appointments in Trump’s Interior Department and subsequently held meetings with their former clients or employers.

In one particularly illustrative example flagged by The Washington Post and CNN, and originally reported by The Guardian in May, Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech held back-to-back meetings with his former employer, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, about topics that were subjects of TPPF lawsuits against the federal government. A few months after the meetings, one of those suits was settled. CLC noted that TPPF called the settlement “a major win.”

The probe adds to an existing inspector general’s investigation into whether newly confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt engaged in similarly allegedly inappropriate behavior with former clients, among other issues.

Of the six political appointees named in the CLC complaint, the Washington Post noted, all but one continue to work for the department: Vincent DeVito took a job as executive vice president and general counsel of an offshore drilling company in August.

A spokesperson for the department told both CNN and the Post that “immediately” after CLC filed its February complaint, the secretary’s office forwarded it to the department’s ethics office, which “provided materials to the chief of staff, who has taken appropriate actions.”

“All of these materials have been provided to the inspector general,” spokesperson Faith Vander Voort said, without detailing what actions had been taken.

Read CLC’s Feb. 20 complaint below:

Pictured above: WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 28: A demonstrator wears a Creature from the Black Lagoon mask as David Bernhardt, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Interior Secretary, testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing on March 28, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

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