In a scathing letter announcing his own resignation, an Interior Department whistleblower on Wednesday declared that Secretary Ryan Zinke “cannot be trusted” in his role and should step down as well.
“You have played fast and loose with government regulations to score points with your political base at the expense of American health and safety,” wrote Joel Clement, “Secretary Zinke, your agenda profoundly undermines the [Interior Department’s] mission and betrays the American people.”
Clement further accused Zinke, President Trump, and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt of being “shackled to special interests” as the oil, gas, and mining industries. “You are unwilling to lead on climate change,” he wrote, “and cannot be trusted with out nation’s natural resources.”
Earlier this year Clement spoke out after being removed from his position shortly after reporting on the impact of climate change on native communities in Alaska, where many natives live on narrow barrier islands on which the permafrost is rapidly melting. He was reportedly given no notice when he was reassigned the the department’s accounting team, which he says amounted to a waste of taxpayer dollars.
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Zinke plans to cut 4,000 Interior jobs to comply with President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, and has publicly said that reassigning officials and pushing them out could be a method of doing so.
“Retaliating against civil servants for raising health and safety concerns is unlawful, but there are many items to add to your resume of failure,” Clement said in his letter. He listed the White House’s “arbitrary and sloppy review of our National Monuments,” its suppression of research by scientists regarding the health risks of mountaintop removal coal mining, and Zinke’s recent public statement that his staff is “not loyal to the flag” as some of the administration’s other failures.
He went on, “The best use of my skills is to join with the majority of Americans who understand what’s at stake, working to find ways to innovate and thrive despite the many hurdles ahead. You have not silenced me; I will continue to be an outspoken advocate for action, and my voice will be part of the American chorus calling for your resignation so that someone loyal to the interests of all Americans, not just special interests, can take your job.”
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