Ryan Zinke is out as Secretary of the Interior.
Zinke will be leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year; his successor is expected to be announced next week.
On Saturday morning President Trump tweeted that Zinke is leaving after serving for almost two years. He said Zinke has accomplished much during his tenure, and thanked him for his service.
Zinke’s departure comes after a tumultuous two years at the department, marked by mounting allegations of misconduct in office. He also faced the prospect of congressional probes after newly-elected Democrats take majority control of the House.
The former Navy SEAL and one-term Montana congressman showed up for his first day at the Interior Department on horseback, promising to model himself after Theodore Roosevelt, the famed conservationist and 26th president.
“I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people’ and will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits all Americans for generations to come,” Zinke said in a statement, released during his swearing in.
Zinke’s tenure has been marred by mounting ethics inquiries into his travel and personal financial dealings, among others.
He was vindicated in some cases, including investigations into his use of chartered and military aircraft, whether he improperly attended a GOP fundraiser in the Virgin Islands and whether he shrank the boundaries of a national monument in Utah to help a local Republican official. Others were closed because of lack of cooperation from his agency.
Still others remained, becoming sore points for the administration.
The most glaring centered on a land deal in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont., that involved an organization run by Zinke’s wife and the chairman of Halliburton, a giant in the oil and gas industry.
Democrats contend that the land deal constituted a conflict of interest for Zinke.
Mary Kendall, the acting inspector general at Interior, opened an investigation into it last summer, looking at Zinke’s involvement in the deal and whether any taxpayer resources were used to advance the development.
Zinke’s lawyer and spokeswoman have both said that he did nothing improper.
The inspector general is also looking at whether Zinke blocked a proposal from two Connecticut Native American tribes to expand a casino because of political pressure and lobbying from MGM resorts.
Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, a lawyer and longtime lobbyist for the oil and gas industry, is expected to take Zinke’s place.
Bernhardt worked at Interior under George W. Bush as the department’s solicitor. He’s expected to pursue a similar agenda of deregulation on the nation’s public lands.
Gallery: Inside Melania Trump’s Extreme Forced Plastic Surgery
Melania Trump has opted for some major cosmetic procedures to stay looking young for the President (especially because Donald Trump reportedly had a scalp reduction to correct balding, and maintains his complexion with heavy-handed spray tans).
There have been so many, despite denials, that it’s often questioned whether FLOTUS is actually Melania Trump, or perhaps a new model that Trump had imported. However, most insiders have claimed that Melania was forced to have these extreme treatments, so much that she looks nothing like the original.
Trump Blames Dead McCain for Healthcare Failures
In a Thursday interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Trump attacked late Senator John McCain (R-AZ). He said McCain “did the nation a tremendous disservice” when he voted against a GOP bill that would repeal and replace ObamaCare in 2017.
“He did the Republican Party a tremendous disservice and he did the nation a tremendous disservice, tremendous, and it’s unfortunate,” Trump said, according to The Hill.
“He went thumbs-down at the very last moment and I thought it was a disgraceful thing to do and very, very bad for our country and bad for health care,” Trump continued. “It was done and then John McCain, at the very last moment, late in the evening, went thumbs-down and everybody said, ‘What was that?'”
Trump also criticized McCain for being connected to a dossier of claims about Trump and Russia. Trump also complained about not being thanked for giving McCain the “kind of funeral that he wanted” after the senator died of brain cancer in August 2018.
“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don’t care about this, I didn’t get a thank you. That’s OK,” Trump said.
Trump Wants to Take Away Disability Benefits from Happy Veterans
The Social Security Administration once again is floating an extremely ableist proposal: using social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook, to monitor people with disabilities who receive disability benefits from the government including the 1.3 million veterans.
It’s not uncommon for veterans to have both Social Security and veterans disability claims going on at the same time.
Alternatively, some veterans receive veterans disability benefits before applying for Social Security disability.
A “service-connected” disability is one that was a result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service.
The agency is arguing this is necessary to fight fraud, ensuring that people who “aren’t really disabled” won’t be able to collect benefits. For the disability community, the implications of this proposal are significant — and very scary. If they seem too happy on social media, or show their live is getting better in any way, shape of form, they might lose their benefits.
The government provides many forms of disability benefits. But most people think of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income when they hear “disability.”
Social Security Disability Insurance is paid to people who worked at some point during their lives. It’s linked to their earnings, with people generally making less than $1,200 in benefits every month.
Social Security disability does not compensate disability claimants based on a partial loss of employability. You are either totally disabled or not disabled under Social Security’s definition of disability.
The SSA hasn’t yet offered specifics on how it might use social media in evaluating disability claims.
But writing for Forbes, Imani Barbarin, who has cerebral palsy and is an advocate for the disabled community, observed that the policy could backfire by mistakenly rejecting people from the program. She noted that such a proposal demonstrates a “fundamental misunderstanding” of disability and how a social media post made by a disabled person could easily be misconstrued.
“Disabled people don’t all function in the same way, and disability is not a set of stereotypes like taking selfies staring longingly at the world. They live lives while managing their energy for the activities they can handle and trying to make those they cannot more accessible,” Barbarin wrote. “Additionally, studies have shown that a majority of social media users show only the good in their lives, not the hardships or difficulties.”