Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee filed a criminal complaint to the Justice Department accusing Trump’s former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt of a bribery scheme, The Hill reports.
Lawmakers said Mike Ingram, owner of developer El Dorado Holdings, and his associates donated more than $240,000 to the Trump campaign and Republicans before the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed its position on a permit for the development of an Arizona project called the Villages at Vigneto.
The complaint said the off-cycle donations were “highly unusual.”
“These facts raise serious concerns about a potentially criminal quid pro quo,” Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva and Rep. Katie Porter said in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Bernhardt has not commented on the complaint.
A representative for Ingram denied any wrongdoing.
“Everything that Mr. Ingram did and that El Dorado did was about asking the government to look at the facts and the law. Period. Nothing in return for campaign contributions. Nothing in return for political relationships,” Lanny Davis, attorney adviser to El Dorado, told The Hill.
Former FWS Field Supervisor Steve Spangle told reporters that he was pressured by a “high-level politico” to reverse the agency’s position on the permit.
He said he was “overruled” by higher-ups and ultimately paved the way for the project to get a Clean Water Act permit.
Ingraham met with Bernhardt over breakfast in August 2017.
David called the report “false” and “misleading.”
“El Dorado participated in multiple meetings with this Committee, acted in full transparency, and gave full cooperation without a subpoena. Despite this, we were denied the basic and fundamental opportunity to rebut the allegations in this referral and denied a chance to even speak to the Chairman,” he said.