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Trump Fires Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Twitter After Ethics Investigations Launched

Polipace Staff

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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.

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Trump

Russians Are Buying US Farm Land As Trump Tariffs Kill Farmers

Polipace Staff

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Foreign investors, mainly Oligarchs from Russia, acquired at least 1.6 million acres of U.S. agricultural land in 2016, the largest increase in more than a decade, according to a review by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting of the latest available federal data.

The data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that foreign investors control—either through direct ownership or long-term leases—at least 28.3 million acres, valued at $52.2 billion. That area is about the size of the state of Ohio.

“Foreign integration into the United States agribusiness sector has been steadily increasing over the last few decades,” agricultural law experts Marisa Bocci, Kari Larson and Paulina Wu wrote in a September 2018 report published in the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law.

The state with the most foreign ownership and investment is Maine, which has 3.1 million acres that are foreign-controlled, followed closely by Texas at 3 million acres.

Estimates of foreign ownership of agriculture land may be underreported as data can be inconsistent and the latest release is more than two years old. Still, it gives a strong indication of amount of foreign ownership and lease information.

Already, six states have laws banning foreign ownership of farmland. Those states are Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

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Trump

Trump Defends Withdrawal from Syria Because of “A lot of Sand.”

Polipace Staff

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Yes, you read that right: President Trump is defending his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, saying, “It’s not our problem,” and that “they’ve got a lot of sand over there. There’s a lot of sand they can play with.”

He said the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies, are “much safer right now,” and added, “They’re not angels.”

Trump has been facing severe bipartisan criticism for having U.S. forces stand aside as the Turks moved into northeast Syria last week to attack the Kurds, who were allies of the United States in the campaign against Islamic State.

Trump spoke at a photo opportunity before meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday. The two are also holding a joint news conference.

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GOP

John Bolton Ordered Staff to Report Trump and Guiliani Because of Illegal Ukrainian “Drug Deal.”

Polipace Staff

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The New York Times is reporting that, responding to the Ukraine scandal, Trump aide John Bolton warned “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everyone up.”

Seems he was fired because he would have no part of President Donald Trump’s off-the-books shadow government Ukraine extortion scandal. Bolton also apparently implicated both the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvany.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton told senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs Fiona Hill to tell White House lawyers, The New York Times reports in a bombshell article late Monday night.

Bolton, who resigned from the Trump administration hours before President Trump tweeted he had fired him, instructed Hill “to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council that Mr. Giuliani was working with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on a rogue operation with legal implications,” Hill told House of Representatives investigators on Monday.

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