It is being reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year, requiring President Trump to find a replacement.
Trump was recently forced to find a replacement for Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was set to retire at the end of the year. Trump subsequently named Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney to be his next chief of staff.
The president took to Twitter on Saturday to announce the Secretary of Interior resignation shortly after some mainstream media outlets began to report rumors of his departure.
“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,” Trump said in a tweet. “Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation.”
“The Trump Administration will be announcing the new Secretary of the Interior next week,” he added.
Despite the praise from the president, Associated Press reports Zinke is “facing federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.”
According to the report, Zinke played a major roll in rolling back federal regulations on environmental regulations:
Zinke, 57, played a leading part in Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations and promote domestic energy development. When he recently traveled to survey damage from California’s wildfires, Zinke echoed Trump’s claims that lax forest management was to blame in the devastation.
Zinke pushed to develop oil, natural gas and coal beneath public lands in line with the administration’s business-friendly aims. But he has been dogged by ethics probes, including one centered on a Montana land deal involving a foundation he created and the chairman of an energy services company that does business with the Interior Department.
Investigators also are reviewing Zinke’s decision to block two tribes from opening a casino in Connecticut and his redrawing of boundaries to shrink a Utah national monument. Zinke has denied wrongdoing.
Politico similarly reports that Zinke is being investigated for potentially using his position within the federal government for personal gain.
Zinke denied the allegations against him and many of his supporters continue to deny that he committed any wrongdoing.
“I have known Ryan a long time,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said. “I’ve always known him to follow the law.”
Zinke’s penchant for mixing official business, political campaigning and family travel caused him problems almost as soon as he became secretary, however. Early on, he had Interior staff look into his wife becoming a department “volunteer,” a designation that would allow her to travel with him at taxpayers’ expense, according to an investigation released in October by the IG’s office.
White House sources have said Trump liked Zinke, a horse-riding Westerner who once credited the president with building a conservation legacy “second only to Teddy Roosevelt.” People around Zinke also saw him as someone with potential for higher office, perhaps a Montana governor or even a White House candidate someday.