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Bernhardt's bureaucracy bomb

Bernhardt and Trump at a 2020 rally in Colorado. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s former Interior secretary David Bernhardt is releasing a book Tuesday with a how-to guide for dismantling the “deep state.”

Why it matters: “You Report to Me” could become a must-read for any conservative trying to stop bureaucracies from thwarting plans of future GOP administrations.

Between the lines: Unlike in many Trumpworld tell-alls, which focus on D.C. intrigue, in this book Bernhardt unspools his decades of service into a call for a wide overhaul.

  • One chapter — “Draining the Swamp” — includes recommendations to dismantle the current system of civil service.
  • One suggestion is that federal employees be considered “at will,” meaning they can be fired at any time, pointing to a Trump-era executive order as a preferred tool.
  • He also endorses several bills to modify the bureaucracy, like one from Sens. James Lankford and Kyrsten Sinema that would require agencies to set metrics for measuring a government program’s success.
  • “I’d love for the members of Congress to think about the ideas we put forward here,” he told Axios.

Between the lines: Bernhardt’s suggestions are unlikely to be law any time soon. But his book could get the attention of Republicans seeking to back claims that agencies are being “weaponized” against conservatives.

  • That’s because it includes a list of fresh allegations involving career staff that Bernhardt says actively undermined some of Trump’s policy priorities.
  • This list, titled “Tales From the Swamp,” was prepared with help from James Sherk, a former Trump White House adviser who works with Bernhardt at the America First Policy Institute, a policy shop founded by ex-Trump personnel.
  • The book alleges that EPA staff intentionally kept Trump officials out of the loop on “significant [legal] cases” and that career employees held up various political priorities.
  • “They were affirmatively working against the interests of the executive,” Bernhardt told Jael. “If they’re doing that, what does that mean for our representative government?”

Flashback: Bernhardt’s got a legacy in D.C. after serving in two GOP administrations and spending years at a lobbying and law firm.

  • Like others under Trump, he had his fair share of scandals. Interior's inspector general last year absolved him of wrongdoing on accusations that he violated lobbying laws regarding a former client, a California water district.
  • The book addresses others, including claims that he interfered with an Arizona housing project. Democrats last year asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to consider criminal charges.
  • “[T]heir letter to Garland lacked a reasonable basis and nothing came of it,” he writes.

Zoom in: Bernhardt remains in touch with congressional Republicans.

  • The book jacket includes endorsements from Sens. Dan Sullivan and Kevin Cramer, who calls the book “a refreshing reminder of basic civics.” Bernhardt was also on the Western Caucus’ podcast in February.
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