Interior Secretary Zinke to step down at end of year

Bloomberg lists Gov. Walker among potential contenders for Interior Secretary position

Over the last few months, however, reports emerged that even the White House was beginning to rethink Zinke's ongoing place within the administration. 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.

"Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation", said Mr. Trump.

"That probe, which continues, is examining whether a land deal Zinke struck with the chairman of oil services giant Halliburton in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., constituted a conflict of interest", WaPo says, adding that Zinke is the latest in a string of high-profile Trump administration appointments to resign amid concerns they used their office to obtain special favors.

Grijalva, the top Democrat on the committee, had previously made clear that after Democrats take control of the House next month they meant to summon Zinke to discuss his ethics issues.

Bloomberg reported Saturday that Bernhardt was Zinke's "likely successor", poised to take over as acting head of the Interior Department.

There are two other investigations of Zinke's conduct.

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

Mr Zinke has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that Zinke would be leaving the administration at year's end. "Surrounding himself with former lobbyists, it quickly became clear that Ryan Zinke was a pawn for the oil and gas industry".

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Zinke tied his departure to the burden of "false allegations" against him.

Zinke's tenure was also marred by mounting ethics inquiries into his travel and personal financial dealings, among others.

The office of the Department of the Interior's inspector general also investigated Zinke's use of military and chartered planes.

"It's hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle", Zinke wrote from his official Twitter account on November 30.

On Trump's orders, Zinke's department reviewed the boundaries of 27 national monuments in 2017 and suggested that the administration move the boundaries of several monuments.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer applauded Zinke's departure in a tweet. "The swamp cabinet will be a little less foul without him".

Correction: December 15, 2018 12:00 am - An earlier version of this story said Ryan Zinke recommended the shrinking of two national monuments.

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).

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