Interior Chief’s Lobbying Past Has Challenged the Agency’s Ethics Referees

On the morning of Aug. 21, 2018, David Bernhardt, then the deputy interior secretary, wanted to attend a White House meeting on the future of a threatened California fish, the delta smelt — an issue upon which Mr. Bernhardt had been paid to lobby until he joined the Trump administration a year before. “These emails suggest that Interior ethics officials faced significant pressure from Trump political appointees to greenlight ethically questionable activities,” said Brendan Fischer, the director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit watchdog group.

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