Dec 15, 2018

Meet the Department of Interior's new acting director David Bernhardt

Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Department of Interior's Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt will take over as acting Secretary in Ryan Zinke's absence after his departure at the end of the year.

Why it matters: There won't be much change in policy for the department during Bernhardt's tenure, but the department will begin its recovery from a tumultuous run by Zinke marred with scandal and controversy. However, Bernhardt has seen his share of controversy in Washington as well.

Details: Bernhardt is an oil and gas lobbyist and a member of former President George W. Bush's administration. Environmentalists are not pleased with the decision.

The backdrop: He replaced independent government analysis in congressional testimony with reports from oil companies, according to climate communications and advocacy group, Climate Nexus.

  • Bernhardt also served as counselor to the secretary when J. Steven Giles was involved in a corruption scandal.

There are also questions about various conflicts of interest he has, including ties between oil and gas companies he has as a former lobbyist.

  • In October 2017, the Bureau of Land Management announced a change in opinion, allowing a controversial water project from a former Bernhardt client, Cadiz Inc., to move forward.
  • The Interior Department also refused to make a decision allowing the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Native American tribes to open a new casino project in Connecticut, benefitting MGM Resorts International.

Go deeper: Smoother, but same track expected at Interior following Zinke's departure

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Coronavirus updates: First case in sub-Saharan Africa confirmed

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

Nigeria confirmed its first novel coronavirus case in an Italian who flew to Lagos from Milan — the first known case in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization has been working to prepare Africa's health care systems to be ready for the outbreak, which is now also confirmed in Algeria and Egypt.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,850 people and infected over 83,700 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Ad spending on 2020 primary tops $1 billion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Spending on the 2020 presidential primary has officially surpassed the $1 billion mark, with more than half of that total coming from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

Why it matters: It's the most money that has been spent this early on in an election cycle in U.S. history.

The growing coronavirus recession threat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In just a matter of weeks, top economists and investment bank analysts have gone from expecting the coronavirus outbreak to have minimal impact on the U.S. economy to warning that an outright recession may be on the horizon.

What's happening: The spread of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., and the speed at which they are being discovered has set the table for the outbreak to have a larger and much costlier impact.