The latest calendars released for Interior Secretary David Bernhardt are prompting renewed scrutiny of the department's transparency efforts, with one Democrat calling them "fake."
Interior published four months' worth of Bernhardt’s schedules to its website on Thursday, a day after he appeared before the House Natural Resources Committee.
While some entries released by the agency list the names of attendees at meetings, others only describe him as having a scheduled "external meeting."
One House Democrat called the Trump Cabinet member's schedules a "fake calendar."
"No real calendar says ‘external call’ or ‘external meeting’ w/ no details -you kinda need to know who you're calling/meeting with!” tweeted Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanCongress shows signs of movement on stalled Biden agenda Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote WHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill MORE (D-Calif.).
Huffman, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, added, “This fake calendar only has details if something is politically useful - e.g. 'meeting w/ youth group.' How dumb does he think we are?”
Interior, when asked to respond to criticism of the entries, sent a letter from March 26 addressed to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) explaining how the office maintains Bernhardt’s calendar.
Bernhardt’s calendars have been an ongoing source of criticism for the department. House Democrats have raised questions over whether the department’s use of Google Docs to maintain his calendar complies with recordkeeping laws.
Interior has offered conflicting information about how Bernhardt’s schedule is maintained, but in April acknowledged that some meetings with industry representatives were intentionally left off his calendar.
Aaron Weiss, deputy director at The Center for Western Priorities, a public lands advocacy group, argued that “it’s not an accident that they waited until the day after his hearing” to share the calendars.
“They’re playing a shell game with Bernhardt’s calendar to still have to avoid saying publicly what he’s working on and who he’s meeting with,” he said.
The level of detail on the latest batch of releases varies. In January alone, Bernhardt met with White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne ConwayCook Political Report shifts Virginia governor's race to 'toss-up' Overnight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House Sean Spicer, Russ Vought sue Biden over Naval Board removal MORE, Grijalva and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R). They also show weekly meetings with ethics officials.
But the schedule is also full of meetings and calls labeled as "external" without any additional details on what was discussed. In some cases, notes indicate these external calls were with high-level government officials, such as Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D), Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan (D) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisHillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Instagram 'pausing' kid-targeted plan DeSantis orders Florida official to investigate Facebook for 'alleged election interference' America isn't first — it's far behind — and studies point to Republicans MORE (R).
Other external calls list only a partially redacted phone number without any details about who was called or why.