This West Is OUR West

Trump suggests he'll weigh in on embattled Interior secretary's future next week

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By Miranda Green

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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The political future of embattled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may be determined as early as next week, President Trump said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a White House press conference, the president said he will likely have a better sense in a week's time about Zinke's role as head of the agency that oversees public lands and endangered species management.

"We're looking at that and I do want to study whatever is being said," Trump said in response to a reporter's question. "I think he's doing an excellent job, but we will take a look at that in a very strong -- and we'll probably have an idea about that in about a week."

The president's comments come a day after Democrats took back control of the House, a change that many Zinke critics are hoping will place new pressure on the secretary.

Zinke has been shrouded by controversy following reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating a real estate deal he made with the chairman of Halliburton -- an oilfield service company -- in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Mont.

Interior's inspector general (IG) referred the investigation to the DOJ shortly before it was announced that a Trump political appointee would be replacing the top watchdog at the IG office. Administration officials later said the replacement announcement was a communication error.

Trump for weeks has been indicating that there may be changes to his Cabinet following the midterms. Zinke, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of Defense James Mattis are considered to be up for possible replacement.

Trump on Wednesday said the changes could still come, but said he was generally happy with the Cabinet.

"You know, it’s very common after the midterms. I didn’t want to do anything before the midterms. But I will tell you that, for the most part, I’m extremely happy with my Cabinet," he said.