Zinke denies Trump forced him to resign

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds Killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens on National Park Service lands in Alaska is wrong Overnight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings MORE denied Friday that he had been fired by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE despite reports indicating that the former Montana congressman was forced out of his Cabinet seat by the president over concerns surrounding multiple scandals.

Zinke argued during an interview on Fox News that Trump was "sad" to learn of his impending departure. Asked directly if he had been "forced out" of the Trump administration, Zinke said no.

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"The president, I think, was sad, but understood I was leaving. I had the president’s – I do have the president’s full support. I exercised what the president wanted," Zinke said.

"I love Interior and I love our public lands. But there comes a time when it's about Ryan Zinke and not the Interior. And the distractions outweigh the accomplishments. And so, looking at it, it's time to dismount," he added, referring to the multiple congressional investigations centered around his conduct at the Interior Department.

The president announced the impending departure of his Interior secretary last week, but did not specify whether the exit was Zinke's choice.

Zinke, who joined the Trump administration last year as the president's first Interior secretary, was also under investigation by agency ethics officials over a land deal involving a foundation he once led, which was referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution over potential ethics violations. Zinke denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The former GOP congressman is the second Cabinet secretary to leave amid multiple allegations of misconduct while in office.

Former EPA administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds Pelosi hammers Pompeo, Trump: 'Scandalous' to dismiss IGs EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement MORE previously left the administration after allegations were raised about his proximity to lobbyists while in office.

In the interview Friday, Zinke called on his critics and critics of the president to tone down their rhetoric, which he said had led to personal threats against his family.

"They have threatened my wife, my family, trespassed on our property, put signs around the neighborhood. They have lied, cheated, and made false allegations. This country needs to take a deep breath and understand we’re all Americans," he told Fox News.