The House Natural Resources Committee is set to vote to rightfully give subpoena power to Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in response to continued stonewalling by Interior Secretary Bernhardt after rampant controversies, numerous unfulfilled requests, and the culture of corruption permeating across the agency.
“If Interior and Secretary Bernhardt really had nothing to hide, they would have already fulfilled these basic oversight requests regarding controversial decisions that impact America’s public lands. Instead, congressional leadership has been stonewalled time and time again leaving subpoena power as the only option,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “The fact remains that Interior clearly needs more accountability. The department under Secretary Bernhardt exemplifies the Trump administration’s rampant culture of corruption, and while it’s the swamp Trump promised to drain, he clearly decided to foster it instead.”
Interior has been known to obfuscate the release of public documents. When Interior Secretary Bernhardt’s schedules became public, it quickly became clear that the department was keeping at least five different versions. Interior is also currently embroiled in a scandal due to their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) political review process, in which high-level Interior political appointees are allowed to review documents about themselves before they are released to the public.
The GOP House Natural Resources Committee ironically tweeted out a photo of five boxes of documents that Interior had provided to House Natural Resource Committee Democrats. But many of the documents are unreadable and many questions still loom around the Bureau of Land Management controversial relocation effort, William Pendley’s acting directorship and zealot viewpoints, as well as the rampant culture of corruption that has infiltrated Interior’s walls and well-being.
The irony of minority leadership being critical of any form of accountability on the Trump administration and the Interior Department shouldn’t be lost. Committee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) wrote an editorial praising scandal-plagued former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke just days before he was removed from his position. Bishop then doubled-down after Zinke announced his impending departure, claiming that ‘we owe him a debt of gratitude.’