Energy

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Says Farewell

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a farewell statement Wednesday, saying it has “been a high honor to serve” under President Donald Trump for the past two years.

“It’s been a high honor to serve @POTUS & the American People as @Interior Secretary,” Zinke tweeted Wednesday. “We’ve restored public lands ‘for the benefit & enjoyment of the people,’ improved public access & shall never be held hostage again for our energy needs.”

“God bless America & those who defend her,” said Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Montana congressman.

Zinke announced his resignation in December after weeks of speculation he would be among several top Trump administration officials, including outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Defense Secretary James Mattis, to exit following the November elections.

Although successful in jump-starting the president’s agenda, Zinke was under multiple ethics investigations. Democrats and environmentalists called for his resignation in light of ethics allegations, which Zinke called “politically motivated.”

During his tenure, Zinke came under at least a dozen investigations, including one that was reportedly referred to the Justice Department, but results of probes made public showed no wrongdoing.

“I am 10 for 10,” Zinke told Fox News in November. “I’ve been investigated on my socks. I’ve been investigated for taking jets, which I don’t. I’ve had 10 investigations completed and you know what they all say? Ryan Zinke follows all the rules, all the regulations, all the procedures.”

Trump Jr. speaks with U.S. Interior Secretary Zinke as they arrive for the 96th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony near the White House in Washington

Donald Trump Jr. speaks with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as they arrive for the 96th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony near the White House in Washington, U.S., Nov. 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Democrats promised to increase scrutiny of Zinke’s managing of the Interior Department in 2019 when they take control of the House. (RELATED: Ninth Circuit Finally Hands Trump A Big Win Against Youth’s Global Warming Lawsuit)

Zinke’s supporters say he was targeted for successfully implementing key parts of Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda. During his tenure, Zinke kicked off the process to open more lands and waters to oil and gas drilling, and he advised Trump to shrink the boundaries of two Utah national monuments.

The White House has already begun interviewing candidates to replace Zinke, including outgoing Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador. Labrador met with White House officials about the job the same day Zinke’s resignation was made public.

Conservative groups sent Trump a list of candidates they’d like to be considered for the job including former Wyoming GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis, California GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, Arizona GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, former Reagan administration official William Perry Pendley and Labrador.

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