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Senators Hirono, Wyden Welcome Interior IG’s Investigation into Secretary Bernhardt

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) welcomed the decision reached by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior (Interior IG) to open an investigation regarding allegations against Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Both Senators Hirono and Wyden sent letters to the Interior IG requesting an investigation into reports that Bernhardt inappropriately blocked a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) assessment of the effects of toxic pesticides on thousands of endangered species.

“David Bernhardt should have neither been nominated nor confirmed to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Like with so many of his colleagues in Donald Trump’s cabinet, Secretary Bernhardt has extensive conflicts of interests and is hostile to the mission of the Department he leads,” Senator Hirono said. “I am concerned that the Secretary put his own interests, and those of his former clients in the oil and gas industry, above the Department’s own career scientists. This new investigation by the Deputy Inspector General will get to the bottom of what happened so that we can hold the Secretary accountable.”

“This is exactly why I wanted a delay in Bernhardt’s consideration. We now have an Interior Secretary who has been on the job for one full business day and is already under investigation,” Senator Wyden said. “With Bernhardt’s track record and the number of allegations against him, it’s no surprise. At least now, the American people will finally get the answers they deserve.”

Deputy Inspector General (Deputy IG) Mary L. Kendall confirmed in her letter to Senator Hirono that her office received seven complaints “from a wide assortment of complainants alleging various potential conflict of interest and other violations” by Bernhardt and is “continuing to gather pertinent information about the complaints and have opened an investigation to address them.”

Earlier this month, Senator Hirono, along with seven of her U.S. Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Deputy IG Kendall to request she investigate “the suppression of a Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion that was due to be completed and released in December 2017.” The letter specifically calls into question actions taken by Bernhardt to suppress scientific data and follows up on a letter the Senators previously sent requesting the Deputy Inspector General monitor and investigate any “instances of potential alterations to scientific reports, documents, or communications produced by the Department of the Interior (DOI) as well as instances of political pressure influencing science at DOI.”

After Bernhardt appeared before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in March for his confirmation hearing to become Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Senator Wyden sent a letter to Deputy IG Kendall to request an investigation following concerns that Bernhardt potentially made misleading or false statements about his role in blocking the USFWS analysis.