The watchdog for the Interior Department said Wednesday that former Secretary Ryan Zinke violated multiple ethics rules during his time in former President Donald Trump's Cabinet. But Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the National Republican Congressional Committee are so far all still backing him for an open House seat in Montana.
In it, Greenblatt wrote that his investigation into Zinke's role in an attempt to sell land owned by a foundation he established — and his wife ran — in Whitefish, Montana, to commercial developers while serving in Trump's administration found significant wrongdoing:
Secretary Zinke failed to abide by his ethics obligations in which he committed not to manage or provide any other services to the [Great Northern Veterans Peace Park] Foundation after his appointment as Secretary of the Interior. We also found that Secretary Zinke did not comply with his duty of candor when questioned by the DOI's then Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) about his continued involvement in Foundation matters, including the 95 Karrow project. In addition, we found that Secretary Zinke misused his official position in violation of Federal regulations by directing his subordinates to assist him with matters related to the Foundation and the 95 Karrow project.While the report is new, the allegations about this land deal have been public since June 2018
The watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington identified Zinke as the subject of 18 unique federal investigations over just his first 17 months running the Interior Department. He denied wrongdoing and described himself as victim to "vicious and politically motivated attacks."
Still, facing multiple investigations, he resigned from Trump's Cabinet in December 2019. According to the Washington Post, Trump was planning to fire him days later if he did not leave voluntarily.
Less than three years after resigning, Zinke filed last April to run in 2022 for Montana's new 2nd Congressional District. He had previously represented the state's one at-large House district from 2015 until 2017 — resigning a few weeks into his second term to run the Interior Department.
Even with the investigations into Zinke still ongoing, top Republicans quickly lined up behind his candidacy.
Last July, he received a "Complete and Total Endorsement" from Trump, who assured voters the man he reportedly tried to fire would be a "strong leader for the great Patriots of Montana."
McCarthy (R-CA) and the National Republican Congressional Committee endorsed him in November. As of Wednesday afternoon, the latter still listed Zinke as one if its "GOP Young Guns," its top tier of endorsed candidates, and praised his decision-making "based on upholding the Constitution and doing what is right for Montana and America."
Spokespeople for Zinke, Trump, McCarthy, and the NRCC did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story.
Despite House Republicans' previous "zero tolerance" pledges and Trump's repeated promises that he would "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., Zinke is just one of several 2022 GOP "Young Gun" candidates and incumbents with ethics scandals currently running.
Reprinted with permission from American Independent