Trump says Interior's Zinke to step down at end of year

Trump says on Saturday Dec. 15 Ryan Zinke leaving administration at end of year successor to be announced next week

President Donald Trump says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (ZIN'-kee), who's facing federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest, will leave the administration at year's end.

A source close to the administration said that Bernhardt may end up in the role permanently because Trump "has been happy with his effectiveness in running the bulk of the agency on Zinke's watch". "Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation", Trump wrote.

In a follow-up tweet, Trump added that his administration will announce a new secretary of the interior next week.

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.

Zinke was a first-term congressman from Montana when Trump chose him to lead the Interior, a sprawling department that employs more than 70,000 people and oversees more than 20 percent of U.S. territory.

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

Trump told reporters this fall he was evaluating Zinke's future in the administration in light of the allegations and offered a lukewarm vote of confidence.

Under Zinke's leadership, the interior department has sought to advance oil and gas drilling and mining on or near public land, rolled back protections for threatened species and shrunk national monuments.

Zinke has strongly advocated for expanding American offshore drilling including off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Trump has reportedly been aware of Zinke's intentions for several days, allowing the White House to get a jump on naming his replacement.

Ted Brewer of the Montana Wilderness Association said Zinke leaves behind a troubling legacy. The president on Friday named budget director Mick Mulvaney as chief of staff. He invited lobbyists and conservative activists to his executive suite, where he posed for photos in front of a large stuffed polar bear wearing a Santa cap, according to an attendee.

As the leading advocate for Trump's push to expand domestic energy production, the former Navy SEAL and Montana congressman became a lightning rod for controversy.

Mr Trump said last month that he would look at the allegations.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer applauded Zinke's departure in a tweet.

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