Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned on Saturday, pressured by ethics investigations into his business practices and travel and policy decisions. He leaves the White House by the end of the year. His replacement will be announced next week.
It is said, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post, that Zinke was urged to resign if he did not want to face a humiliating firing at the end of the year. Once Scott Pruitt left, Zinke was hit with negative press attention which President Trump did not appreciate for it reflected poorly on him.
Zinke denied he did any wrong. The Interior inspector general is pursuing inquiries into Zinke. One inquiry involves a casino project in Connecticut. After being heavily lobbied by MGM Resorts International, which planned a casino nearby, Secretary Zinke kept two Native American tribes from opening a casino in Connecticut.
A deal in Zinke’s hometown also raised a red flag. The chairman of Halliburton, America’s biggest oil services company, lent funds to a development for a hotel, brewery, and shops in Whitefish, Montana, raising the value of property Mr. Zinke owned. Mr. Zinke’s wife signed off on a parking lot to enable building for the development.
Mr. Zinke regulates oil on public land thus questions were raised as to whether the deal between him and Halliburton was made from a conflict of interest. Mr. Zinke even hosted the developer and the chairman in his secretarial office in 2017. Mr. Zinke financially profits from the deal and the chairman benefits from decisions made in favor of fossil fuel production.
Three Democrats asked Mary L. Kendall of the Interior Department for an investigation into Mr. Zinke’s motives. Ms. Kendall opened the investigation in July and forwarded at least one inquiry to the Justice Department in October.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva is going to be chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He is opportunistic about the next Secretary and expressed his sentiments as follows: “The next interior secretary should respect the American people’s desire for strong environmental standards and an end to corporate favoritism.”
As Secretary, Zinke supported Mr. Trump’s energy-first agenda. He was responsible for directing mineral extraction and conservation of about 500 million acres of public land. His policies triggered environmentalists concerned about climate change and shrunk two land monuments in the biggest rollback of federal land protection. Mr. Zinke’s deputy, David Bernhardt, is a former oil lobbyist thought to succeed Mr. Zinke.
Featured Image via Flickr/Gage Skidmore