The Interior Department's inspector general on Monday opened an investigation into ethics claims surrounding David Bernhardt, Trump's newly appointed interior secretary.
The Interior Department confirmed to the Washington Examiner that the probe was initiated on Monday at the request of Democrats, just days after he was confirmed by the Senate.
Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico led the charge in requesting that the inspector general investigate whether Bernhardt violated lobbying laws while serving in his previous capacity as deputy interior secretary.
"Secretary Bernhardt is hopeful the Inspector General will expeditiously complete a review of the facts associated with the questions raised by Democratic Members of Congress and DC political organizations," said interior spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort, rebutting accusations that Bernhardt had violated any rules or laws.
She noted that the agency's ethics office had already conducted its review, determining that Bernhardt is in "complete compliance" with his ethics agreement and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
Both high-ranking Democrats and Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee had supported Bernhardt ahead of last week's vote on the Senate floor.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said that the committee had vetted allegations facing Bernhardt thoroughly and was satisfied that he acted within the confines of the law.
Vander Voort sent the Washington Examiner nine documents that the agency said showed Bernhardt's due diligence in complying with ethics rules, including a letter from the agency's solicitor to Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut that said he did not violate ethics rules.
The solicitor said that Bernhardt had complied with all ethics rules and laws when it came to his previous clients and employment as a lobbyist and private consultant.
The senators had asked the solicitor to respond to a February New York Times article that questioned whether Bernhardt had followed ethics rules while serving at the Interior Department. Specifically, the senators were concerned about a water district in California that Bernhardt had represented, which would have benefited from actions taken by him after he began serving as deputy secretary.
Bernhardt was involved in lifting protections for a threatened fish species, the delta smelt, which would have benefited the water district.
The solicitor said that all accusations of alleged conflicts of interest are taken serious by the agency's ethics officers, but in this case, no violations were found.