Just two weeks after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stood next to Donald and Melania Trump and lauded the president for bringing “Christmas back to America,” Trump delivered an early Christmas present by announcing on Twitter that Zinke will be gone by the end of the year.
This is one of the benefits of a con man president surrounding himself with fellow grifters: When it starts to get too hot, watch the news cycle follow along dutifully as members of the administration bail like rats from a sinking ship.
To be clear, Zinke deserves to go. And his decision to do so now that he’s under investigation by the Justice Department over a questionable land deal with the company Halliburton may have more to do with the fact that the incoming House of Representatives will be controlled by Democrats armed with subpoena powers to investigate all of Trump’s Cabinet.
According to Bloomberg, Trump had known for several days that Zinke planned to leave. On Saturday, Trump confirmed the news on Twitter.
“Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years. Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation,” Trump tweeted.
The president said a replacement would be named next week.
Zinke’s departure follows the embarrassing ouster of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who also will be leaving by the end of the year. Trump had hoped to steal Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Nick Ayers to replace Kelly, but instead, both Pence and Trump lost when Ayers decided to return to Georgia. On Friday, Trump announced that budget director Mick Mulvaney would step in as acting White House chief of staff.
Zinke, a former congressman from Montana, prompted an impressive 15 investigations against him in his two years at the Trump administration. Those included the use of public funds to charter expensive private flights and lavish expenditures on things like office doors. He also allegedly once spent over $6,000 on a government helicopter to go horseback riding.
But his attacks on the environment were even more troubling. According to Bloomberg, “Zinke played a leading part in the president’s campaign to roll back environmental regulations and promote American energy development. The Interior Department moved to auction off more oil leases, ended a moratorium on new sales of federally owned coal, and repealed mandates governing drilling.”
Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the conservation group Center for Western Priorities, told Bloomberg that Zinke “will go down as the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation’s history.”
Don’t let that $140,000 door hit you on the way out.