Trump taps Commerce watchdog to be new Interior inspector general

Trump taps Commerce watchdog to be new Interior inspector general
© Greg Nash
Greenblatt, who is currently the assistant inspector general for investigations at Commerce, would oversee numerous high-profile investigations, including probes into allegations that former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeThe case for transferring federal lands back to Native Americans International hunting council disbands amid litigation Europe deepens energy dependence on Russia MORE violated federal ethics laws, claims that he denies.
The White House announced Greenblatt's nomination late Friday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Greenblatt would replace Mary Kendall, the deputy inspector general, as the top official in the internal watchdog office, a role she has held since 2009, when Earl Devaney, the last inspector general, resigned.
Trump had previously tapped Greenblatt in September 2017 to be inspector general of the Export-Import Bank.
The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee voted by voice in December 2017 to advance his nomination, but the full Senate never voted, and the nomination was returned to Trump earlier this month when the Senate ended its session.
The longtime inspector and former New York litigator would enter a position in the Trump administration that was marred in controversy last year.
Democrats and watchdog advocates raised objections that Tufts, a political appointee who worked for Trump's electoral campaign, would be conflicted as a watchdog.
An Interior spokesperson said at the time that Tufts was referred to the agency by the White House as a potential candidate for a position in the inspector general's office but that "at the end of the day, she was not offered a job at Interior."
The confusion came as Zinke faced a string of probes from Interior's inspector general, including regarding his wife’s travel and reports he negotiated a business deal involving the former chairman of oil service company Halliburton Co.
Shortly after the controversy, Tufts resigned from her position in HUD.
Trump has not yet nominated a replacement for Zinke. David Bernhardt, the deputy Interior secretary, has been acting secretary since Zinke left earlier in January.
The White House said Friday that Greenblatt has more than 15 years of oversight experience at the Commerce Department inspector general's office and with the Justice Department's top watchdog.
He previously clerked for U.S. District Judge Anita Brody and worked as chief counsel for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. 
-- Updated Jan. 14 at 12:22 p.m.