Where Are They Now?
Remember Trump’s appointees — Pruitt, Zinke, and the rest? Here’s where they went afterwards.
Trump’s environmental appointees were a motley crew, many lacking in relevant expertise; others with shaky ethical standards. While in office, they were daily sources of torment for environmentalists. Where are they now? For most, being in the cabinet has been a stepping stone to nowhere. Here’s the Trump crew and their last known whereabouts.
David Bernhardt. Bernhardt headed Interior. It probably speaks well of his performance that I can’t remember anything about his tenure there. At least, if he was an environmental villain, he didn’t attain supervillain status like Scott Pruitt or Jeffrey Clark. Today, he’s back at his old law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck as a senior counsel. (So far as I’m aware, I’m not related to Steve Farber, one of the founders.) The law firm apparently has a sense of humor, given that its website describes Bernhardt’s work for Trump as focused on furthering conservation stewardship. He’s also on the advisory board of Advancing American Freedom, at Mike Pence political advocacy group. If Pence manages to snag the GOP nomination, I guess Bernhardt will be back in action.
Dan Brouillette. Brouillette was at Energy. He must have been even better than Bernhardt — not only can’t I remember what he did, I didn’t even remember his name. Just another face in the Trump crowd. He’s now the President of Sempra Infrastructure, a utility holding companies that owns San Diego Gas & Electric among others. As far I can tell, he’s the only one of these Trump appointees to have landed a real job.
Jeffrey Clark. Earlier in his career, Clark did a great favor to environmentalists: he badly bungled the Bush Administration’s handling of the issue of EPA jurisdiction over greenhouse gases, which ultimately helped environmentalists win on this issue in the Supreme Court. Clark was the head of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. He seems to have been a lot more interested, however, in taking over the Justice Department so he could help Trump overthrow the democratic process. He’s now a Senior Fellow and Director of Litigation at the Center for Renewing America, an organization whose goals include fighting Critical Race Theory. Probably a subject he knows even less about than environmental law. Or democracy.
Rick Perry. Perry was a successful governor of Texas who famously forgot the name of the Department of Energy at a presidential debate. Although that tanked his campaign, it didn’t keep Trump from appointing him to head DOE. To his credit, he did become a big fan of DOE’s national lab system, though it’s not clear what else he accomplished. He’s now on the board of a gas pipeline company and a large dental insurer. He actually seems like a reasonably nice guy, if a somewhat hapless one, so I’m not going to say anything snarky.
Scott Pruitt. Pruitt was a former Oklahoma Attorney General whose greatest claim to fame had been suing EPA. His tenure as head of EPA was even worse than you might have expected. Not only did he turn out to be incompetent, he was also severely ethically challenged. The highlight of his tenure was the “secure” $25,000 phone booth he ordered for his office just in case he ever had anything top secret to talk about. I’m not going to say anything snarky about Pruitt because it would be superfluous. He’s now a lobbyist for Sunrise Coal. In a Republican primary to replace U.S. Senator Inhofe, Pruitt garnered 5% of the vote.
Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler replaced Pruitt at EPA, with similar anti-environmental goals. Wheeler was a former coal lobbyist and was probably as competent and ethical as anyone on Team Trump, though generally in the service of bad causes. Continuing his career of environmental destruction, he’s now a senior advisor to Virginia’s Republican governor, after the Virginia legislature declined to confirm him as secretary of natural resources.
Ryan Zinke. Prior to being appointment, Zinke’s main claim to fame was punching out a hapless reporter. That apparently earned him a spot on Trump’s cabinet. He got in hot water over ethics and resigned under a cloud. After narrowly winning the GOP primary, he’s now running for Congress in Montana. Given his earlier career, I guess he doesn’t have to worry about reporters getting in his face or anywhere else within punching distance.
So there you go: Trump’s environmental dream team and where they washed up on shore after his stormy years in office.
Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…READ more