- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2018

President Trump announced Saturday that embattled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was leaving the administration at the end of the year.

The president made the announcement in a series of tweets, commending the former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL for serving nearly two years atop the Department of Interior.

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

One early name suggested as a replacement is Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who just won re-election last month but who has had a curious relationship with Mr. Trump, seeking areas to work with the president.

That selection would likely have easy going in the Senate confirmation process and one influential strategist said Mr. Manchin would be true to Trump policies.

“He is going to toe the line,” the strategist said.

The ouster of Mr. Zinke, who faced numerous ethics investigations and was loathed by environmentalists, is part of a year-end shakeup at the White House.

Mr. Trump cut loose Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly after the November elections and this month announced Chief of Staff John Kelly was on his way out.
The president has hinted that other staff moves were on the way, although he said he said that for the most part he “loves” his Cabinet secretaries.

Mr. Zinke’s job, however, has been under intense stress for months.

The scandals surrounding Mr. Zinke range from high-priced travel on government planes to an alleged shady land deal in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, that involved the Zinke family and Halliburton chairman David Lesar.

The Interior Department inspector general referred the land deal scandal to the Justice Department.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat who will lead the House Natural Resources Committee next year, has vowed a probe of the land deal.

Environmental and conservation groups cheered Mr. Zinke’s departure.

Zinke will go down as the worst Interior secretary in history,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “His slash-and-burn approach was absolutely destructive for public lands and wildlife. Allowing David Bernhardt to continue to call the shots will still be just as ugly. Different people, same appetite for greed and profit,” he said in a statement.

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