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Ex-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke promises his new job at a mining company is not a conflict of interest

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's new boss may have hired him because of his "excellent relationship" with several government departments, but Zinke says there's no conflict at all with him now working for a mining exploration and development company.

"I don't lobby," Zinke told The Associated Press. "I just follow the law, so I don't talk to anybody on the executive side or influence [anyone]." The Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of the country's land, water, wildlife, and energy. When Zinke stepped down as secretary in December, he was the subject of several investigations, including one involving his connection to a real estate deal with a company regulated by the Interior Department.

In his new role at Nevada-based U.S. Gold Corp, Zinke is a consultant and board member, earning $100,000 annually. The company's CEO, Edward Karr, told AP he's "excited to have Secretary Zinke move us forward" on two pending mining projects, including one in Nevada on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management; BLM is under the Interior Department.

President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 that prohibits executive-branch appointees from lobbying their former agency for at least five years after exiting the department, AP notes, and there are also criminal statutes banning certain communications between former senior federal officials and their old agencies for one to two years.