Embattled US interior secretary steps down after series of scandals

Trump says on Saturday Dec. 15 Ryan Zinke leaving administration at end of year successor to be announced next week

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leaving his post at the end of the year, President Donald Trump says, in the latest high profile departure from his administration.

President Trump tweeted about Zinke's departure Saturday morning.

Mr Zinke was among Mr Trump's most active Cabinet members, cutting huge wilderness national monuments in Utah to a fraction of their size and proposing offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was scathing in response to the news that Zinke was leaving.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks past Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as he stands to address the 17th annual September 11 observance at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 11, 2018.

In a series of tweets Saturday, the president revealed Zinke will be departing the administration at the end of the year after nearly two years.

Zinke was a one-term congressman when Trump selected him to join his incoming Cabinet in December 2016.

It would be an understatement to say that environmentalists and Democratic politicians were pleased to see Zinke go, and they quickly took to the internet to let him know it.

Bloomberg reported Saturday that Bernhardt was Zinke's "likely successor", poised to take over as acting head of the Interior Department.

Interior's inspector general's office said Zinke allowed his wife to ride in government vehicles with him despite a department policy that prohibits nongovernment officials from doing so.

"I was disappointed to learn that Secretary Zinke is stepping down", she said, according to a statement provided by her office.

Zinke had become the subject of several federal investigations, including inquiries into a real estate deal involving Zinke's family and a development group backed by Halliburton Chairman David Lesar.

Neither the White House nor the Interior Department responded to TheDCNF's requests for comment.

"At the very least the American public deserves to know more about the man behind the curtain who is actually running the show at Interior and could soon be fully responsible for managing our country's public lands, wildlife and natural resources", Saeger, whose group sued in July for Bernhardt's communications, said.

Representative Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said he was hoping for a "genuine turning of the page".

"It's hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle", Zinke wrote from his official Twitter account on November 30.

Two outgoing Republican congressmen are said to be interested in the job. "It is better for the President and Interior to focus on accomplishments rather than fictitious allegations".

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