Energy & Environment

Democrats call for removal of Interior official after ethics investigations

More than a dozen Democrats are calling for the Trump administration to fire Assistant Interior Secretary Douglas Domenech, arguing that two ethics investigations in a six-month period show that his “unethical behavior justifies his immediate removal.”

The effort comes after a May report from the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found Domenech “took advantage of his position” and wrongly used government resources by reaching out to a former high-level Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee both in person and by email about a job for his son-in-law.

That report followed a December investigation that admonished Domenech for meeting with his former employer, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which at the time was suing two Interior agencies.

Democrats sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Tuesday, saying President Trump should remove Domenech.

“You have not held Mr. Domenech accountable in any meaningful way, even after the second OIG report of his violations,” the 13 lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

“According to a statement from DOI [Department of the Interior], the only consequence for Mr. Domenech’s misconduct has been additional ethics training on top of the repeated sessions that had already clearly warned him not to use his position to endorse friends and family, among other actions.”

Domenech’s son-in-law ultimately accepted a job at the EPA, and the OIG investigation found Domenech’s actions “implicate a variety of federal ethics regulations,” including misuse of his office and of his government email.

“The underlying events regarding Mr. Domenech occurred in 2017 before the Department initiated an unprecedented effort to invest in building a culture of ethical compliance and dramatically expanding the Department of the Interior’s Ethics Office Program, which has resulted in tripling the number of career ethics officials within the Department. The Department considers this matter resolved,” an Interior Department spokesperson said by email.

However, the OIG report appeared to counter that argument.

The investigation report noted that Domenech had already received ethics training at the time of the email exchanges with the EPA official. That training took place during the George W. Bush and Trump administrations.

“Over those years, he received initial and annual ethics trainings. Moreover, he received two ethics trainings in the first two months of his arrival in 2017, both of which specifically addressed the federal prohibitions against misuse of position, title, and government resources,” the report said.

Updated at 3:46 p.m.

Tags David Bernhardt Department of the Interior Donald Trump Douglas Domenech Environmental Protection Agency Ethics investigation Raul Grijalva

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