Newly appointed Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is the latest member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet to come under investigation by his own agency's watchdog.
The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General on Monday confirmed that it has opened an investigation into allegations of conflict of interest and other violations during Bernhardt's tenure as the agency's deputy secretary.
The confirmation comes less than a week after the Senate confirmed Bernhardt to his position. It keeps the spotlight on the nation's top steward of public lands, whose past lobbying for energy and agribusiness clients drew scrutiny from Democrats during confirmation hearings.
The probe is the latest to target a member of Trump's administration, which has been dogged by allegations of conflict of interest and self-dealing. Similar investigations paved the way for the departure of Bernhardt's predecessor, Ryan Zinke, and the exit of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
The disclosure was made in a letter to Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Last month, the lawmakers asked the inspector general to look into whether there was anything improper about Bernhardt's participation in regulatory activity that affected former clients. Bernhardt previously chaired the natural resources practice at lobbying and law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall told the lawmakers that the office "has received seven complaints, including yours, from a wide assortment of complainants and have opened an investigation to address them."
McCollum and Udall requested an investigation following a New York Times report on Bernhardt's involvement rolling back wildlife protections, which would benefit his former clients in the California farming industry.