WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry, caught up in the congressional scrutiny over administration dealings in Ukraine, plans to resign by the end of the year, President Donald Trump said Thursday.
The announcement was hailed by members of the Nevada congressional delegation who have battled with the Trump administration and Perry over a push to revive development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, and a secret shipment of plutonium into the state.
“Good,” said Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., immediately upon hearing Perry planned to resign.
Yucca Mountain is located in Horsford’s congressional district and 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
Trump said Perry told him six months ago that he planned to leave the administration by year’s end, but the announcement comes as Perry faces a congressional subpoena over his involvement in the president’s request of Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The Ukraine dealings with the administration are the focus of a House presidential impeachment inquiry.
“Rick has done a fantastic job. But it was time,” Trump told reporters traveling with the president in Texas.
Trump said he has already picked a replacement for Perry, which he would announce soon. He dismissed suggestions that it would be the current governors of Alaska or Texas.
Perry, a former Texas governor, unsuccessfully ran for president and infamously forgot during a televised debate the name of the Energy Department, one of federal departments he planned to eliminate if elected.
“Whoops,” he said, in an awkward moment on the presidential debate stage.
He also appeared on the show “Dancing with the Stars” after his failed presidential bid.
As secretary, Perry headed the Trump administration’s plans to revive the licensing process to develop Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, which was vehemently opposed by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, former Gov. Brian Sandoval and the state’s bipartisan congressional delegation.
Development of the repository was shelved in 2011 under President Barack Obama, at the behest of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Perry also tangled with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., following a secret shipment of one half metric ton of weapon-grade plutonium to the Nevada Nuclear Security Site as the state prepared to seek a federal injunction to block the transfer from South Carolina.
He later promised that the Energy Department would begin moving the plutonium out of the state in future years, and would not ship more of the radioactive material into Nevada.
The Energy Department and Perry shot down news reports earlier this month that he planned to resign by November.
But Trump contradicted that, Thursday, telling reporters in Texas: “I knew six months ago. He told me at the end of the year he’d like to go and he’s got some ideas about doing something else. He’s a terrific guy.”