Interior Secretary Zinke resigns amid investigations ~ NYT

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Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted his resignation to the White House Saturday, facing intense pressure to step down because of multiple probes tied to his real estate dealings in his home state of Montana and his conduct while in office.

Zinke — the first Montanan to serve in a presidential Cabinet — is the fourth Trump Cabinet member to resign under an ethics cloud in less than two years. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt also relinquished their posts after coming under scrutiny for how they spent taxpayer dollars on their travel, among other allegations.

For Zinke the key moment in his loss of support at the White House came in October when Interior’s inspector general referred one of its inquiries to the Justice Department, according to two senior administration officials.

That probe, which is still ongoing, is examining whether a land deal Zinke struck with the chairman of oil services giant Halliburton in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., constituted as a conflict of interest.

The secretary’s final public appearance was Thursday night at his Christmas party, which he told White House staffers he wanted to have before his dismissal. He invited lobbyists and conservative activists to his executive suite, where he posed for photos in front of a large stuffed polar bear wearing a Santa cap, according to an attendee. Mounted animals on the wall were fitted with ornaments.

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