President Donald Trump tapped Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to succeedEnergy Secretary Rick Perry, who is expected to leave the agency's top post at the end of the year, Friday.
Brouillette — whose broad experience in Washington's backrooms includes stints as a top lobbyist for the Ford Motor Company, the chief of staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee and senior Energy Department roles in multiple administrations — is a "total professional," Trump said in nominating him.
The announcement of a change in leadership, months before Perry is expected to actually depart, comes amid a deepening Ukraine scandal that touches on the secretary's work on natural gas issues in that country. Perry is one of several federal officials who engaged with the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine-related matters while Giuliani was trying to spark an investigation in that country into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
The elder Biden is one of the top contenders to win the Democratic nomination to take on Trump in his 2020 re-election bid.
Perry, who told The Wall Street Journal that he spoke to Giuliani at Trump's direction, said that he is leaving the Cabinet because he wants to return to Texas.
It was not immediately clear how the nomination would fare in the Senate given partisan divisions and the administration's wide-ranging resistance to congressional requests for information and testimony in the Ukraine investigation, but Brouillette's status as the No. 2 player at the department means that he can transition easily into the role of acting secretary if he's not confirmed quickly.
Additionally, said Dan Eberhart, CEO of Canary, an oilfield services company and a GOP donor, he's well-positioned to take over.
"Brouillette has been leading meetings at the DOE for months, so I would expect a seamless transition," Eberhart said. "President Trump has enough to worry about elsewhere so appointing Brouillette would fill an open slot without making unneeded waves."