Trump: ‘It was time’ for Energy Secretary Rick Perry to go

As recently as Wednesday, Perry denied his departure was imminent. But on Thursday, the president said he knew for months, saying he thought Perry “might go a bit sooner.”

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry

Energy Secretary Rick Perry gestures as he arrives on Air Force One with President Donald Trump at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday

Andrew Harnik/AP

WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry will leave his job by the end of the year, President Donald Trump said Thursday.

Perry was traveling with Trump to Texas when he told Trump of his decision aboard Air Force One.

As recently as Wednesday, Perry denied his departure was imminent. But on Thursday, the president said he knew for months, saying he thought the former Texas governor and unsuccessful presidential candidate “might go a bit sooner.”

“We already have his replacement,” Trump told reporters during a visit to the Louis Vuitton workshop in Alvarado, Texas, according to a pool report.

“Rick has done a fantastic job. But it was time. “

Perry is under scrutiny over the role he played in the president’s dealings with Ukraine, which are currently the subject of an impeachment inquiry.

House Democrats have subpoenaed Perry for documents related to a Ukrainian state-owned energy company as well as his involvement in a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The lawmakers set a Friday deadline.

Trump has said Perry teed up the July 25 call, in which Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, who was employed by a Ukrainian gas company.

President Donald Trump holds a bag during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory

President Donald Trump holds a bag during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado, Johnson County, Texas on Thursday..

Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Perry did not answer questions about his decision upon arrival in Fort Worth on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Perry could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Trump said Perry will leave “toward the end of the year,” describing the decision as one he expected.

“No I knew six months ago,” Trump told reporters. “He’s a terrific guy. He’s here with us now. … Rick and I have been talking for six months. In fact I thought he might go a bit sooner. But he’s got some very big plans. He’s going to be very successful. We have his successor. We’ll announce it pretty soon.”

The Perry spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, has said Perry wanted Trump to speak with the Ukrainian leader on energy matters related to U.S. efforts to boost Western energy ties to Eastern Europe. It is part of a long-term effort to lessen the political control Russia wields through its dominance of the fuel supply.

The Associated Press reported this month that a circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted their connections to Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as they sought to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company last spring.

The plan hit a snag after Zelinskiy’s election, but Perry took up the effort to install a friendlier management team at the company, Naftogaz. Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, attended Zelinskiy’s May 2019 inauguration as the administration’s senior representative and met privately with Zelinskiy. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Perry had disputed reports that he was planning to leave the administration in an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal. But he reportedly left the door open, saying he expected to be at the Energy Department at Thanksgiving, but giving a less definitive answer when asked whether he’d be there through the end of the year.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry

Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on his future budget request, on Capitol Hill in Washington in May. File Photo.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Responding to earlier reports of his imminent departure, Perry told a news conference in Lithuania earlier this month, “One of these days they will probably get it right. But it’s not today, it’s not tomorrow, not next month. Keep saying it and one day you’ll be right.”

Perry, who became energy secretary in 2017, has supported Trump’s call for “energy dominance” around the world and pushed to bolster struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants. He said last year that a rash of coal and nuclear retirements was “alarming” and posed a looming crisis for the nation’s power grid.

“If unchecked, [the plant closures] will threaten our ability to recover from intentional attacks and natural disasters,” Perry said at a speech in Texas.

Trump, who has frequently promised to bring back coal jobs, directed Perry in June 2018 to take “immediate steps” to bolster struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants to keep them open, calling it a matter of national and economic security.

No definitive action has been taken since then, and experts said Trump was attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

A regional transmission organization that oversees the power grid in 13 Eastern and Midwestern states said there’s no immediate threat to system reliability.

Colvin reported from Fort Worth, Texas.

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