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OffbeatInterior Secretary Ryan Zinke to leave at year's end

16:40  15 december  2018
16:40  15 december  2018 Source:   thehill.com

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke , a key figure in President Trump’s sweeping plan to reshape the nation’s environmental framework, resigned under In one of the final acts of Mr. Kelly’s tenure, his team told Mr. Zinke that he should leave by year ’ s end or risk being fired in a potentially humiliating

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will depart amid growing controversy over allegations that he violated ethics rules. Trump tweeted early Saturday that Zinke "will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years . Ryan has accomplished much during

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to leave at year's end © Greg Nash Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to leave at year's end Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned Saturday amid growing controversy over allegations that he violated ethics rules.

David Bernhardt, the deputy Interior secretary, is expected take over as acting secretary.

Bernhardt has been the point person on numerous major Interior initiatives, such as changes to the Endangered Species Act and efforts to start drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He is widely expected to continue similar policies as Zinke, though perhaps with a different tone.

Zinke's departure as head of the agency that oversees federal land, wildlife, American Indian relations comes as Democrats prepare to take over as the majority in the House, where they'll have subpoena power for investigations.

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Ryan Zinke , Secretary of the Interior responds to a reporters question during a news conference after touring the fire ravaged town of Paradise, Calif U. S . President Donald Trump announced Saturday his scandal-plagued Interior Department secretary , Ryan Zinke , will leave his administration at the

President Trump said on Twitter Saturday that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year .

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the presumptive incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight of the Interior Department, had promised to use his gavel to compel Zinke to testify about the accusations against him and to subpoena records related to the allegations.

Zinke, a former Montana congressman, has been under scrutiny for a land deal involving a foundation he led and a company backed by David Lesar, chairman of oilfield services company Halliburton.

Interior's Office of Inspector General (OIG) referred its probe into the deal to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution of conflict-of-interest laws. Zinke denied any wrongdoing.

That referral came at least a week before Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced to staff that Suzanne Israel Tufts, a Trump political appointee at HUD, was going to replace Interior's acting inspector general. The Hill first reported the shakeup in October. Interior later denied the report and HUD said it was a miscommunication.

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President Trump announces that Interior Secretary Zinke will depart the administration; Ellison Barber reports.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke , facing federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest, will be leaving the administration at year ’ s end , Trump said Saturday. In his resignation letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Zinke said “vicious and politically motivated

Critics raised suspicions about the timing of the two events. Grijalva said he would like to probe the nature of the attempted OIG replacement when he takes control as committee chairman next year.

The timing "can't be dismissed as merely a coincidence," Grijalva told Bloomberg. "That's why the oversight is so necessary."

President Trump told reporters on Nov. 7 that he was looking into the complaints against Zinke and expected to come to a conclusion in the near future.

When asked if he planned to fire the Interior head, he told reporters, "No."

Zinke was facing a handful of other investigations by the OIG, including probes into whether he improperly blocked an American Indian casino project after a competitor's lobbying and whether he broke ethics rules by redrawing a Utah national monument in a way that benefited a state lawmaker.

The OIG also found that Zinke violated department policies by letting his wife travel in government vehicles. Investigators largely cleared him of potential violations related to his official travel, including flying on a jet owned by an oil executive and using a private plane on a trip that included a political fundraiser.

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“ Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years . Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation,” President Trump wrote in a tweet.

Zinke joins White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who will also leave his post at year ’ s end . Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the I love working for the President and am incredibly proud of all the good work we’ve accomplished together. However, after 30 years of public service, I

The Interior Secretary was no stranger to controversy after taking office in March 2017.

His government spending raised eyebrows after reports surfaced that he created battle coins to hand out to guests, asked for a specially designed secretarial flag to be flown above Interior's headquarters when he was present and spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to replace his office's balcony door.

He was also questioned for his use of charter flights, including one to Montana after a private engagement with the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team. An Interior ethics official signed off on the event and charter travel but was unaware that the owner of the hockey team was a former campaign donor. The OIG ruled that the use of the flight was avoidable.

Similar spending and ethics issues contributed to the departure of other former Trump administration officials, such as Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Zinke ruffled feathers with some of his policies, including one that reduced the boundaries of two national monuments. He also expanded offshore oil drilling, weakened protections for endangered species and reversed an Obama-era ban on elephant and lion hunting trophy imports.

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Zinke was central to the Trump administration's "Energy Dominance" agenda, which aims to dramatically increase production of oil, natural gas and coal, mainly by loosening regulations for production and use.

"I don't ever want to be held hostage by a foreign entity over energy needs. I don't want to send your kids, my kids, on foreign shores to fight for energy," Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, told Fox Business Network in September. "And environmentally, it is best to produce energy in this country under reasonable regulation than to watch it get produced overseas with no regulation."

One of Zinke's first acts after joining the Cabinet was to repeal a moratorium the Obama administration had put on new coal-mining leases on federal land, which was implemented to enable a study of the climate change implications of mining. He later announced that Interior would be looking into expanding offshore drilling in federal waters - a move opposed by almost every coastal state.

Under his leadership, Interior repealed Obama-era standards meant to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas drilling on federal land, in addition to working to repeal regulations on fracking.

Zinke led the Trump administration's review of national monument protections, which resulted in Trump's decisions to slash the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument's size by about half, and the Bears Ears National Monument by about 85 percent. Both protected areas are in southern Utah.

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Interior under Zinke pursued numerous policies to change how the Endangered Species Act is implemented, including reducing protections for threatened species and making it harder to protect habitat. The department declared in a legal memo that it would not punish companies that "incidentally" kill or harm migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

At the same time, Zinke sought to frame himself as a conservationist second only to former President Theodore Roosevelt, who used his position to protect natural areas.

"Interior represents the people. And when it comes to public lands, you look at the Teddy Roosevelt Arch when you enter the park: 'For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,'" Zinke told a Montana radio show in October, referring to an entrance to Yellowstone National Park. "So it's the people's lands, we should take care of it."

In October, Zinke oversaw the establishment of Trump's first national monument, at Camp Nelson in Kentucky. He also worked to improve access to federal land by hunters and fishermen as part of a wide-ranging agenda to boost hunting. In a similar vein, he worked to create two controversial pro-hunting advisory committees filled predominantly by representatives of pro-gun and sport shooting groups.

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