Zinke's exit may open the door for an Idaho Interior leader

click to enlarge Outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
Outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Former Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke will be out as secretary of the Interior at the end of the year, amid pressure from multiple ongoing ethics investigations.

Zinke announced in a statement on Twitter over the weekend that he loves working for President Donald Trump but "after 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations."

But the New York Times reports that just because Zinke is leaving the job does not mean he won't face possible criminal action. The Times mentions a particular case in which there are questions of whether Zinke used his position to influence a Montana real estate deal that could personally benefit him. If the case is taken up by the attorney general and proven, the punishment for the crime could come with thousands of dollars in fines and potential years in jail.

Trump was expected to announce his nominee to replace Zinke this week, and as of Tuesday, the Hill reported that among the likely contenders was Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador, who will leave his U.S. House position after a failed bid for Idaho governor, and current Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who leaves office in January. The Senate will have to confirm Trump's nominee.

The Interior secretary oversees everything from national parks to oil and gas leasing on public lands, to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which works with every federally recognized tribe in the country.

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...