Statement: Bernhardt Doubles Down on Deception at Congressional Hearing

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt doubled down on his deception and lies during Congressional testimony today, where he failed to clarify his ethically dubious and potentially illegal involvement in decisions that benefited former clients. In response, Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger issued the following statement:

“When pressed about his involvement in influencing decisions that benefited the ex-mega lobbyist’s former clients, Secretary Bernhardt doubled down on his deception by failing to answer direct questions by committee members. The American people deserve a Secretary who will be open, transparent and honest about the decisions impacting our public lands and wildlife. Instead, Bernhardt continually resorts to rewarding his former clients in ways that have potentially violated the law and harmed America’s public lands.”

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) pressed Bernhardt on this ethics recusals and whether he was following legal guidelines when he began working on a biological opinion that benefited a former client, Westlands Water District, within months of his deputy secretary confirmation. Bernhardt failed to provide a clear answer to the Congressman’s questions.

Western Values Project (WVP) has documented several lies Bernhardt has told over the past months, all of which have led up to Interior’s own Inspector General opening an investigation “into several allegations of ethics violations” just four days after he was confirmed by the Senate. In response, WVP released a new ad highlighting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s series of lies to Congress and the public, noting that his obfuscation has been deployed to “benefit his former clients and monied special interests.”

Bernhardt has overseen some of the department’s most controversial public land decisions, including opening millions of acres of public lands to industrial oil and gas development and mismanaging America’s national parks during the historic government shutdown. He’s been involved in at least 17 scandals prior to his confirmation. Six other senior Interior political appointees are under also investigation for potential ethics violations.

More information on the former lobbyist and his conflicts is available at

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