Ryan Zinke

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Trump says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke leaving administration

December 15, 2018 - 10:02 am
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WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 attacks" against him had "created an unfortunate distraction" in fulfilling the agency's mission.

Trump, in tweeting Zinke's departure, said the former Montana congressman "accomplished much during his tenure" and that a replacement would be announced next week. The Cabinet post requires Senate confirmation.

Zinke is leaving weeks before Democrats take control of the House, a shift in power that promises to sharpen the probes into his conduct. His departure comes amid a staff shake-up as Trump heads into his third year in office facing increased legal exposure due to intensifying investigations into his campaign, business, foundation and administration.

Zinke's resignation letter, obtained from a Zinke aide on Saturday, cites what he calls "meritless and false claims" and says that "to some, truth no longer matters." It was not clear whether Zinke had already submitted the letter when Trump tweeted.

Zinke, 57, played a leading part in Trump's efforts to roll back federal environmental regulations and promote domestic energy development. He drew attention from his first day on the job, when he mounted a roan gelding to ride across Washington's National Mall to the Department of Interior.

Zinke had remained an ardent promoter of both missions, and his own macho image, despite growing talk that he had lost Trump's favor. On Tuesday, Zinke appeared on stage at an Environmental Protection Agency ceremony for a rollback on water regulations. Mentioning his background as a Navy SEAL at least twice, he led the audience in a round of applause for the U.S. oil and gas industry.