By Stephen Loiaconi | Saturday, December 15th 2018
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will step down at the end of 2018. (USDA/MGN)
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Saturday that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be stepping down at the end of 2018.
"Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation," Trump said.
Earlier Saturday morning, Bloomberg News reported Zinke's resignation would be announced Wednesday. The former House member from Montana has faced numerous investigations for alleged ethics violations, conflicts of interest, and other misconduct since taking over at Interior, but he has not been formally accused of any wrongdoing.
In his resignation letter to Trump, Zinke complained that "vicious and politically motivated attacks" were distracting from the department's mission. The Washington Post reported the White House had been pressuring Zinke to resign for weeks, expecting him to become a top target for probes by House Democrats if he remained in office.
A spokesperson for Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, told The Associated Press the committee will still seek testimony from Zinke next year.
According to Bloomberg, Nevada’s Dean Heller, Nevada’s Adam Laxalt, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Idaho’s Butch Otter, and Utah’s Sean Reyes are among the contenders to replace Zinke.
Word of Zinke's departure spread quickly Saturday, with environmentalists who have long been critical of the secretary welcoming the announcement.
"Zinke will go down as the worst Interior secretary in history. His slash-and-burn approach was absolutely destructive for public lands and wildlife," Kieran Sucking, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Associated Press.
Trump recently announced White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would also be resigning at the end of the year. On Friday, he named Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as "acting" chief of staff.