Green 'swamp creatures' crash Trump nominee's Senate confirmation hearing

Silent protesters donning green masks and one that resembled the character in the horror film "Creature from the Black Lagoon" popped up at Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt's Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Images of the spooky swamp creatures quickly circulated online late Thursday afternoon — as Greenpeace USA shared a GIF of a demonstrater pulling the mask over her head while Bernhardt was questioned by committee members. At least one green creature appeared in the frame (just above Bernhardt's shoulder) of photos and videos throughout the hearing.

"So why did we bring these swamp creatures to David Bernhardt's confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary this morning? Well... Bernhardt is a former oil and gas lobbyist who previously worked to help corporate polluters get their hands on public lands," the environmental nonprofit organization wrote in a tweet, which has received hundreds of likes.

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Greenpeace said it was intended to be a spoof of President Trump's popular campaign saying: "Drain the swamp," referring to corruption and greed in Washington, D.C.

The organization claimed Bernhardt is a "walking conflict of interest."

The environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action also enlisted "swamp creatures" to sit in on the hearing. Some wore masks of Bernhardt's face.

The protesters were removed from the hearing room by Capitol Police after about two hours, the police spokeswoman confirmed to The Washington Post, declining to elaborate.

Bernhardt appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which was considering his nomination as Interior secretary. Bernhardt, a Washington veteran who has worked previously at Interior and more recently as a lobbyist, has been serving as the department's acting secretary since Ryan Zinke resigned in December amid ethics allegations.

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Some Democrats argued that Bernhardt's past lobbying work for clients in energy, agriculture and other businesses made it impossible for the nominee to impartially decide a host of regulatory matters dealing with the public resources under Interior's control.

But Bernhardt touted his "particular skill set" and stressed that he realizes the importance of the Department of the Interior's duties.

A Greenpeace USA activist attends a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee nomination hearing for former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill.

A Greenpeace USA activist attends a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee nomination hearing for former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, defended Bernhardt during the heating, arguing that his past work for industries and previous stints as a senior staffer at Interior gave him valuable experience.

Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, too, said government ethics officials had approved Bernhardt's plans for handling any conflicts of interest.

"He has proven his ability to head the department," said Murkowski, R-Alaska.

While announcing his nomination in February, Trump praised Bernhardt's work.

"David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!" he tweeted at the time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.