Trump not ready to fire In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Zinke

The Idaho Statesman - - News - BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER

WASH­ING­TON

In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke and his boss, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, moved Fri­day to tamp down talk that Zinke might be the next Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial to go.

The 57-year-old for­mer Mon­tana con­gress­man has pushed to de­velop oil, nat­u­ral gas and coal be­neath pub­lic lands in line with the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s busi­ness-friendly aims. But Zinke has been dogged by ethics probes, in­clud­ing one cen­tered on a Mon­tana land deal in­volv­ing a foun­da­tion he cre­ated and the chair­man of an en­ergy ser­vices com­pany that does busi­ness with In­te­rior.

Trump’s long-an­tic­i­pated ouster this week of At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions seemed to make good on ex­pec­ta­tions that Trump would shake up the ranks of of­fi­cials af­ter Tues­day’s midterms. Trump told re­porters Wed­nes­day he might reach some res­o­lu­tion about Zinke in about a week.

Asked out­right by re­porters Fri­day if he would fire Zinke, how­ever, Trump said, “No, I’m go­ing to look into any com­plaints.”

Speak­ing Fri­day to a ra­dio sta­tion in Mon­tana, Zinke dis­missed re­ports he al­ready was hunt­ing for his next job.

“I think I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to be the com­man­der of space com­mand,” Zinke said. “How’s that one?”

“I en­joy work­ing for the pres­i­dent,” Zinke added. “Now, if you do your job, he sup­ports you.”

In an email, In­te­rior De­part­ment spokes­woman Heather Swift said Zinke was “deny­ing in strong­est pos­si­ble terms” any plans to leave.

Zinke has de­nied wrong­do­ing, and his lawyer said Zinke has not been no­ti­fied of any Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Two sources told AP ear­lier that the In­te­rior Of­fice of In­spec­tor Gen­eral re­ferred an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Zinke to Jus­tice, sig­nal­ing a po­ten­tial es­ca­la­tion amid a se­ries of in­quiries into Zinke’s con­duct.

Ryan Zinke

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