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Report: Zinke Plans to Resign, Explores Fox News, Energy Company Boards

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at Grand Canyon Nation Park on Sept. 22. U.S. Department of the Interior

From taxpayer-funded trips with his wife to shrinking national monuments for fossil fuel interests, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is one of President Trump's most scandal-ridden cabinet members.

Now, the embattled official, who is facing several federal investigations of alleged misconduct, could be on his way out.


POLITICO's sources said that the cabinet official plans to resign as Interior Secretary by the end of the year. They claimed that Zinke reached out to the conservative channel Fox News about potential employment, and also sought positions on energy company boards of directors or private equity firms, according to POLITICO.

The Interior's press secretary denied the report about Zinke seeking a job with Fox News, calling the rumor "laughably false and belongs in The Onion," in reference to the satirical news publication.

A network spokeswoman also told The Hill that "no one at Fox News has spoken to Zinke about a contributor role."

On Friday, Trump said that he has no plans to fire his DOI secretary but was "going to look into any complaints," The Hill reported.

Even if Zinke's future as a Fox News pundit is uncertain, many would be happy to see him out of his government job. Zinke has faced numerous calls for resignation from environmental groups and fellow lawmakers for his anti-environmental policies.

The former Montana congressman spent much of his time at the Interior opening public lands to oil and gas drilling, and was recently linked to a development project with David Lesar, the chairman of the oil giant Halliburton.

Since taking office, Zinke has racked up 17 federal investigations into his behavior, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Several of the investigations have closed but he is currently the subject of six open investigations by federal agencies and Congress, CREW said.

"After spending nearly the last two years being forced to watch Ryan Zinke sell-out our public lands and break ethical norms and possibly laws, we needed a good laugh," Sierra Club Our Wild America director Lena Moffitt said in a press release in reaction to POLITCO's report. "But as a former representative himself, Zinke shouldn't forget that the House's power of subpoena extends all the way to cable television."

Democratic New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone—who will likely be the new chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee after the Democrats took control over the House after the midterm elections— promised to "conduct vigorous oversight of the Trump Administration so Washington works again for the people not the special interests."

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A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.


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