Interior Secretary Zinke resigns amid investigations

President Trump’s Interior Chief to step down

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leaving his post at the end of the year, President Donald Trump says, in the latest high profile departure from his administration.

Zinke was among Trump's most active Cabinet members, cutting huge wilderness national monuments in Utah to a fraction of their size and proposing offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was scathing about Mr Zinke in response to the news he was leaving.

The president chose Zinke in December 2016 to serve in the cabinet-level position and said in a followup tweet that the White House would announce a replacement next week.

The top Democrat in the Senate is calling Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke "one of the most toxic members" of the Cabinet and says the Cabinet "will be a little less foul without him".

The resignation seemed to come as a surprise - despite indications that the president intends a major staff shakeup as the Trump administration enters its third year - but The Washington Post reports that Zinke has been under pressure to resign or be fired for weeks, as Congressional investigators and enterprising reporters closed in on a potential ethics violation.

Zinke tied his departure to the burden of "false allegations" against him. Critics allege he made that move, overruling his staff's recommendation, shortly after he met with lobbyists for MGM Resorts International, which owns a new casino in the region.

Democratic Party's congressman Raul Grijalva had previously promised to compel Mr Zinke to testify about the accusations against him and to subpoena records related to the allegations.

During his time in office Zinke came under at least 15 investigations, including inquiries into his connection to a real estate deal involving a company that Interior regulates; whether he bent government rules to allow his wife to ride in government vehicles; and allowing a security detail to travel with him on a vacation to Turkey at considerable cost.

"During his tenure as Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke continuously demonstrated blatant disregard for science, conservation, and the federal workforce-all critical components of the Department", Sen.

Under the deal, a developer backed by Lesar could build a parking lot on land owned by a foundation started by Zinke (and where his wife now serves as President). 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".

Two outgoing Republican congressmen are said to be interested in the job.

President Donald Trump announced Saturday that Zinke will leave the administration at the end of the year.

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