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Energy Department downplays report of Rick Perry’s departure

WASHINGTON — A Department of Energy spokeswoman downplayed a media report Thursday that Secretary Rick Perry, who has drawn Senate scrutiny over Trump administration involvement in Ukraine, was expected to resign later this year.

Perry, a former Texas governor, has been the frontman for Trump administration policies on energy, natural gas exportation and efforts to restart licensing hearings to open Yucca Mountain in Nevada for nuclear waste storage.

Politico, a Washington news outlet, published a story late Thursday citing three unnamed sources close to the secretary who said Perry was expected to announce his resignation in November.

The story said Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, a former Bush administration official from Texas, would replace Perry as acting secretary of the department.

A spokeswoman for Perry, Shaylyn Hynes, dismissed the report in a statement to the Review-Journal but did not rule out an imminent departure.

“While the Beltway media has breathlessly reported on rumors of Secretary Perry’s departure for months, his is still the secretary of Energy and a proud member of President Trump’s Cabinet,” Hynes said.

“One day the media will be right. Today is not that day,” she said.

Perry has crossed swords with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, over Trump administration plans to develop Yucca Mountain.

Most recently, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and the state’s congressional delegation were angry with Perry after the Energy Department secretly shipped a half ton of weapons-grade plutonium into the state for temporary storage. That shipment was ordered by a federal court in South Carolina, but Nevada was not notified beforehand.

Perry’s ties to Nevada include family living in the state, and a close relationship with former Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican who also disagreed with Trump administration policies on nuclear waste storage in the state. Sandoval endorsed then-Texas governor Perry in his unsuccessful 2012 campaign for president.

Although Perry has avoided controversies and scandals that have snared other members of the Trump cabinet, he most recently came under scrutiny for the administration’s dealings with Ukraine, currently the focus of a House impeachment inquiry into the president.

Perry attended the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on behalf of Trump.

A whistleblower complaint has accused Trump of trying to coerce Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was a board member of a Ukrainian gas company. The president sought the investigation as the administration withheld roughly $400 million in military aid approved by the House and Senate.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is asking Perry and other U.S. officials attending the inauguration about their interactions with Ukrainian leaders.

Perry as a GOP presidential candidate once called for the elimination of the Energy Department. He also called Republican rival Trump a “carnival barker,” but was later tapped by Trump to lead the department Perry had vowed to close.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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