Interior Secretary Zinke To Step Down Amid Ethics Investigation

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Donald Trump said on Saturday that his interior secretary will be leaving soon - the latest in a series of high-profile departures from an administration beset by turnover and alleged ethical failings. Bernhardt was confirmed by the Senate in July 2017.

For the moment, Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of NY were eager to crow about the latest departure.

US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke arrives at the US Capitol prior to the service for former President George H.W. Bush on December 03, 2018 in Washington, DC.

"Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of nearly two years".

Top Democrat leaders Saturday were quick to bash Zinke, one even calling him part of the swamp that needed to be drained.

It is still unknown who Trump will announce as Zinke's replacement. He may have opted to leave with Democrats set to take over the House and planning to investigate him.

The Justice Department is investigating Zinke for allegedly using his office for personal gain, following a referral from the Interior Department's inspector general.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, called Zinke "the most scandal-plagued interior secretary in recent memory". Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who said in a statement that he had been a "strong partner for Western states".

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Bernhardt worked at Interior under George W. Bush as the department's solicitor.

The most glaring centered on a land deal in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Mont., that involved an organization run by Zinke's wife and the chairman of Halliburton, a giant in the oil and gas industry.

As the top manager for more than 500 million acres of public lands, including almost 400 national parks and monuments and wide expanses of coastal waters, the interior secretary has a lot of control over outdoor recreation, development and energy production on federal lands.

"It's hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle", he wrote, a comment that many in Washington thought crossed a line.

"He still has big-time political ambitions", said one Republican with close ties to Zinke, who asked for anonymity in order to speak frankly.

Previously, the president had repeatedly praised Zinke's performance at Interior.

An early Trump supporter, Zinke is close to the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and publicly expressed his interest in a Cabinet post when Trump visited Montana in May 2016.