Zinke departs from Interior post

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report MORE formally left his position Wednesday, tweeting that it has been a “high honor” to serve President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE and the American people.

Zinke announced his plan to resign last month amid numerous investigations into whether he violated ethics standards.

Zinke, whose 22-month tenure was marked by rollbacks of environmental policies and a push to boost fossil fuel production, had planned Wednesday as his departure date from the outset. 


Zinke's letter came the day before Democrats take the majority in the House, which would have given the party and incoming Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) the power to subpoena him and compel him to testify in hearings.

“We've restored public lands ‘for the benefit & enjoyment of the people,’ improved public access & shall never be held hostage again for our energy needs,” Zinke said in the statement handwritten in red marker on his official letterhead, scanned and posted at noon on Twitter.

The quote is from the 1872 law that created Yellowstone National Park as the nation’s first national park. It is also inscribed in the Roosevelt Arch, a monument at an entrance to Yellowstone that honors President Theodore Roosevelt, to whom Zinke frequently compared himself for his conservation legacy.

“God bless America & those who defend her,” Zinke wrote.

Most of the Interior Department is currently closed due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, although most national parks are open without staff, leading to problems like trash, human waste and illegal fires.

Zinke’s Twitter profile now lists him as “former” secretary, and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, who has been elevated to acting secretary, represented the department at an afternoon Cabinet meeting with Trump at the White House.

In announcing Zinke’s planned resignation Dec. 15, Trump said that he would announce a nominee to fill the spot the following week. He has yet to do so.

The eventual nominee would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Interior’s press office, which is affected by the shutdown, did not respond to a request for comment on the transition.