Trump says Interior's Zinke to step down at end of year

President Trump’s Interior Chief to step down

Embattled interior secretary Ryan Zinke steps down after series of scandals

Ryan Zinke will resign as interior secretary, President Donald Trump said Saturday. "Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation", Trump wrote in a tweet.

His departure comes amid a staff shake-up as Trump heads into his third year in office. He may have opted to leave with Democrats set to take over the House and planning to investigate him.

Zinke, 51, has run the Department of the Interior since early 2017.

Yesterday, Mr Trump said his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, would take over as White House chief of staff on a temporary basis after former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie abruptly ruled himself out for the post.

But Zinke's critics and even some of his early supporters soured on him early, arguing that his actions benefited extractive industries over all else.

On Twitter, Zinke described the report on his helicopter usage as "total fabrications and a wild departure from reality", arguing that the rides had been related to his position.

The company has an interest in Department of Interior decisions on whether to open public lands for drilling.

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The moves have helped fuel a boom in domestic oil and gas production. Mentioning his background as a Navy SEAL at least twice, he led the audience in a round of applause for the US oil and gas industry. He became a darling of the US energy and mining industries and a prime target for conservationists and environmental groups. "His actions - such as undermining the federal Antiquities Act, diminishing good faith collaborative successes in sage grouse management, and pushing resource exploitation at the expense of conservation - eroded public goodwill".

The announcement on Zinke came just a week after another impending high-profile departure was made public.

Still others remained, becomingsore points for the administration.

Zinke had faced allegations of misconduct involving a land development deal.

The most serious one, which the Interior Department's acting inspector general referred to the Justice Department, focuses on whether the secretary used his office for personal gain in connection with a land deal he forged in Whitefish, Montana, with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar and other investors.

Zinke had remained an ardent promoter of both missions, and his own macho image, despite growing talk that he had lost Trump's favor.

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