by Tim Pearce
Environmentalists began celebrating Saturday after President Donald Trump announced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would leave the administration by the end of 2018.
“Zinke’s days of plundering our lands and enriching himself and his friends are over,” Friends of the Earth fossil fuels program manager Nicole Ghio said in a statement. “With an average of nearly one federal investigation opened into his conduct in office per month, Zinke’s highly questionable ethics have finally caught up with him.”
“Zinke will go down as the worst Interior secretary in history,” Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
Zinke has faced at least 15 federal investigations through either the inspector general for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Special Counsel’s office. The four prior Interior Department secretaries were investigated a total of 11 times. The investigations and the prospect of heightened scrutiny when Democrats take control of the House in 2019 were reportedly factors in Zinke’s decision, according to Bloomberg.
“I am 10 for 10,” Zinke said during a Fox News appearance Nov. 30, referring to the investigations that have been initiated and concluded. “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.”
The Justice Department reportedly opened an investigation into alleged misconduct by Zinke after the inspector general referred one of its probes for possible criminal charges.
Environmentalists have heavily criticized Zinke since Scott Pruitt resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency amid a storm of negative media coverage and death threats against himself and his family.
“In many ways, Pruitt was the best thing Zinke had going for him,” Center for Western Priorities media director Aaron Weiss said after Pruitt’s resignation, announcing a revamped campaign against Zinke.
Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who called for Zinke’s resignation Dec. 4, said Zinke’s priorities for the department were wrong. Grijalva has promised to increase scrutiny of the Interior Department after Democrats take control of the House in 2019. Grijalva will chair the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the department.
“The American people need the Interior Department focusing on climate change, public recreation and endangered species, not making the secretary’s life more financially comfortable,” Grijalva said in a statement to Politico.
– – –
Tim Pearce is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Tim Pearce on Twitter.
Background Photo “Justice Department Bulding” by Another Believer. CC BY-SA 3.0.