The Latest: Zinke blames 'vicious' attacks for departure

The Latest: Zinke blames 'vicious' attacks for departure
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2018 file photo, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke speaks after an order withdrawing federal protections for countless waterways and wetland was signed, at EPA headquarters in Washington. Trump says on Saturday, Dec. 15, Zinke leaving administration at end of year, successor to be announced next week.(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) (Source: Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the departure of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (all times local):

5:25 p.m.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is blaming what he calls "vicious and politically motivated attacks" for his resignation from President Donald Trump's Cabinet.

Zinke's departure, set for Jan. 2, comes as the former Montana congressman faces numerous federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest — and shortly before Democrats take over the House, which could launch investigations of its own.

Trump says he plans to announce a replacement next week.

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1:30 p.m.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska says she's disappointed that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leaving, calling him a "strong partner for Western states."

President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that Zinke would be leaving the administration at year's end. Zinke had faced federal investigations and intensifying Democratic scrutiny into ethics allegations.

Zinke's work at Interior included helping ease the way for more oil and gas exploration on public lands.

Murkowski, head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Zinke had worked to "secure energy dominance" for the U.S.

Congressional Democrats have been scathing over Zinke's tenure, saying he favored business interests instead of protecting natural resources.

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12:40 p.m.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (ZIN'-kee) says in his resignation letter to President Donald Trump that "vicious and politically motivated attacks" on him and his family have "created an unfortunate distraction" in fulfilling the agency's mission.

Zinke is citing what he calls "meritless and false claims" and says that "to some, truth no longer matters."

The Associated Press obtained the letter after Trump had tweeted Saturday that Zinke would leave the Cabinet post at year's end.

The former Montana congressman is facing federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

Zinke says all allegations have been investigated thoroughly, and he writes that "in each matter the conclusion has been and always will be that I follow all rules and regulations."

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12:20 p.m.

A congressional committee still plans to look into allegations of ethical violations by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke despite Zinke's departure.

That's according to Adam Sarvana, a spokesman for Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva. Sarvana said Saturday that while Zinke may be leaving, "the real oversight of former Secretary Zinke has not even started."

President Donald Trump announced earlier Saturday that Zinke will leave the administration at the end of the year.

But Sarvana said the House Natural Resources Committee still intends to ask for Zinke's testimony.

Grijalva, the top Democrat on the committee, had previously made clear that after Democrats take control of the House next month they intended to summon Zinke to discuss his ethics issues.

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10:55 a.m.

The top Democrat in the Senate is calling Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke "one of the most toxic members" of the Cabinet and says the Cabinet "will be a little less foul without him."

President Donald Trump announced Saturday on Twitter that Zinke will leave the administration at the end of the year.

Sen. Chuck Schumer responded with a tweet condemning Zinke for "the way he treated our environment, our precious public lands, and the way he treated the govt like it was his personal honey pot."

Zinke faces federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest. He is leaving office just weeks before Democrats take control of the House, a shift in power that promises to intensify the probes into his conduct.

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10:25 a.m.

The coming departure of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is being welcomed by environmentalists.

President Donald Trump announced Saturday that Zinke will leave the administration at the end of the year.

The executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity says "Zinke will go down as the worst Interior secretary in history. His slash-and-burn approach was absolutely destructive for public lands and wildlife."

But in his statement, Kieran Suckling cautions that Zinke's departure does not mean the Trump administration will stop its efforts to roll back environmental regulations and promote energy production. He predicts it will be different people but the "same appetite for greed and profits."

Trump said a replacement for Zinke will be announced next week.

Zinke is leaving the administration as he faces federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

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9:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (ZIN'-kee), who's facing federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest, will leave the administration at year's end.

Trump tweets that Zinke "accomplished much during his tenure" and that a replacement would be announced next week. The Cabinet post requires Senate confirmation.

Zinke, a former Republican congressman from Montana, is leaving weeks before Democrats take control of the House, a shift in power that promised to intensify probes into his conduct.

Zinke played a leading part in Trump's efforts to roll back environmental regulations and promote domestic energy development.

His departure comes amid a staff shake-up as Trump heads into his third year in office. The president on Friday named budget director Mick Mulvaney as chief of staff.