Posted: 10:59 am Saturday, December 15th, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
Facing investigations by the Justice Department, his own Inspector General, and Democrats in the U.S. House, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave his post by the end of this year, President Donald Trump announced on Saturday, continuing the high profile staff changes since the elections in his administration.
“Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation,” the President tweeted, not mentioning the investigations Zinke faced, covering excessive travel costs, improper political activities, and potential conflicts of interest.
Zinke – like others in the Trump Cabinet – also faced the prospect of actual aggressive oversight in the Congress, with Democrats taking over the House of Representatives in January.
The lawmaker who would lead most of those questions is Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), whom Zinke said a few weeks ago was nothing but a drunk.
“It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke tweeted from his official account.
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 30, 2018
“This is no kind of victory, but I’m hopeful that it is a genuine turning of the page,” Grijalva said on Saturday.
Among the investigations into Zinke, the internal watchdog at the Interior Department found that he had taken a security detail with him for a vacation with his wife to Turkey and Greece, costing taxpayers $25,000.
Zinke also spent $12,375 on a chartered flight to take him from Las Vegas back to his home of Kalispell, Montana.
During some of the Inspector General investigations of Zinke, the Trump Administration tried to move an appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development into the IG office at Interior; after complaints and questions about the legitimacy of the switch, the change did not occur.
Democrats in Congress, who often compared Zinke’s ethics questions to those of former Trump EPA chief Scott Pruitt, had nothing good to say about Zinke, who arrived at the Interior Department for his first day of work in Washington, on his horse.
“Zinke leaves behind a shameful legacy of self-dealing and corruption,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
“Glad to see that Interior Secretary Zinke is being forced out,” tweeted Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “Tired of Trump Administration officials who use their office for personal gain.”
“Ryan Zinke kept zero of his promises and used our public lands as handouts to his fossil fuel cronies,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
“Ryan Zinke’s tenure at Interior was a never-ending stream of terrible management decisions,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “I will not miss him.”
Good riddance to Ryan Zinke and the horse he literally rode in on. pic.twitter.com/triFovIXPZ
— Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) December 15, 2018
The President’s announcement about Zinke’s future came a day after the President announced that his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, would be Acting White House Chief of Staff starting in 2019.
Other Trump Cabinet officials also could be on their way out in coming weeks, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
“Thank u, next,” tweeted Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).