by Tim Pearce
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared on Fox News Thursday night and defended his record after being the subject of more ethics investigations than his last four predecessors combined.
Fox Host Shannon Bream confronted Zinke about his investigation tally, quoting figures from the Center for Western Priorities, an environmental group critical of the Interior secretary and the Trump administration’s overall approach to federal land and energy policy.
“I am 10 for 10,” Zinke told Bream. “I’ve been investigated on my socks. I’ve been investigated for taking jets, which I don’t. I’ve had 10 investigations completed and you know what they all say? Ryan Zinke follows all the rules, all the regulations, all the procedures.”
The inspector general has at least two investigations into Zinke still open. One refers to a land-use agreement between a nonprofit Zinke started in 2008 and development project backed by former Halliburton chairman David Lesar. The other focuses on Zinke’s refusal to approve the construction of a casino in Connecticut. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, who proposed the casino, allege “improper political influence” affected Zinke’s decision.
Zinke later went on the offensive, calling for an investigation into another environmental group that has been critical of his tenure, the Western Values Project.
“This is politically motivated – in Montana, we call it B.S. An organization like Western Values Project that pretends to be a 501(c)(3) and advocate group, I would like to see their books. I think everyone would like to see how they are funded,” Zinke said. “They are operatives from the Democratic Party. They are hacks. They’ve always been. And they need to be investigated.”
Two probes into alleged misconduct by Zinke came up short earlier in November. News broke Tuesday that the Federal Election Commission was dropping a probe into Zinke’s involvement in a Republican fundraiser in the Virgin Islands because of a lack of jurisdiction. Monday reports revealed that the inspector general had cleared Zinke of any misconduct in a probe over rolling back the designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
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