Tag: ryan zinke
GOP Silent On New Charges Against Trump’s Crooked Interior Official

GOP Silent On New Charges Against Trump’s Crooked Interior Official

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.

Inspector general Mark Greenblatt, a Trump appointee, released a 34-page report titled "Former Secretary Did Not Comply With Ethical Obligations and Duty of Candor."

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.

That agency is tasked with protection and management of natural resources and cultural heritage, though he spent most of his time there pushing anti-environmental policies.

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

Ryan Zinke

Trump’s Scandal-Plagued Interior Chief Running For Congress

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Less than three years after resigning from Donald Trump's Cabinet in the face of ethics investigations, Ryan Zinke is seeking a comeback, filing on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission to run for Montana's newly created 2nd Congressional District.

Zinke represented Montana's sole at-large House district from 2015 until 2017. A few weeks into his second term, he resigned to become Donald Trump's first secretary of the interior.

On Monday, the Census Bureau announced that due to population changes over the last decade, Montana will have a second Congressional seat on the ballot in next year's midterm elections. Although the state has not yet drawn district maps, Zinke's FEC filing specifies "State is Montana in District: 02."

Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale currently represents all of Montana.

Prior to his current job running a cryptocurrency company, Zinke oversaw the federal agency tasked with protecting and managing the United States' natural resources and cultural heritage.

His term as interior secretary came to an abrupt halt in December 2019, when, according to the Washington Post, he resigned his post days before Trump was set to fire him.

The Interior Department Office of Inspector General had opened multiple ethical probes into Zinke. Among those was an investigation of alleged conflict of interest arising from the involvement of a foundation set up by Zinke and run by his wife in the development of land in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana, by a group funded by David Lesar.

Lesar is the chair of oil services giant Halliburton, which might have benefited from decisions on oil-drilling that would have been made by the Interior Department.

Zinke denied wrongdoing, but in October 2019, the Interior Department's acting inspector general referred the probe to the Justice Department to determine whether a criminal investigation was appropriate.

According to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Zinke was the subject of 18 separate federal investigations during his first 17 months in Trump's Cabinet.

In his resignation letter, Zinke claimed to have been the victim of "vicious and politically motivated attacks."

He tweeted at the time, "I love working for the President and am incredibly proud of all the good work we've accomplished together. However, after 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations."

Zinke spent much of his time at the Department of the Interior pushing an anti-environmental agenda.

He rolled back Obama-era climate protections regulating fracking, limiting methane gas emissions, and ensuring environmental safety from offshore oil drilling. He massively expanded oil and gas leases on public lands. He called for massive budget cuts for his own agency. He pushed to shrink the size of America's national monuments.

In October 2017, the Washington Post reported that he had ordered that the flag of the secretary of the interior be flown over the department's headquarters whenever he was in the building and taken down when he wasn't, a practice with origins in the Navy that wasn't carried out by any other government officials.

A spokesperson for Zinke told the Post the flag-flying was "a major sign of transparency." Retired Army Col. Steven Warren, who had run the Pentagon's press operation, on the other hand, said, "Is he trying to send a message? Is he big on pomp and circumstance, or is this a case of 'Look at me?'"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump International Hotel

Violating Washington’s Mask Ordinance At Trump International Hotel

Multiple high-profile visitors to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., have posted photos of themselves inside the building breaking city regulations meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus — rule violations that could lead to thousands of dollars in fines.

Current and former Trump administration officials, as well as GOP lawmakers and other Republican media personalities, have posted photos of themselves to social media inside the hotel's common spaces without wearing masks or maintaining six feet of space between other guests.

Read NowShow less
Bernhardt Would Be Another Disaster At Interior

Bernhardt Would Be Another Disaster At Interior

Back in 2016, candidate Donald Trump said he opposed a Republican bill designed to grease the wholesale transfer of America’s public lands to states. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great,” he told Field & Stream, “and you don’t know what the state is going to do.”

It turned out that, on the contrary, Trump very much liked the idea. He got to work on it in his first month as president. And he named Ryan Zinke, a zealot for privatizing public land, as the head of the Interior Department. The remarkably corrupt Zinke had to resign. Trump now wants Zinke’s No. 2, David Bernhardt, to take over Interior and continue the mission.

With Bernhardt’s help, the administration radically shrunk two national monuments in Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Formerly an oil and mining lobbyist, Bernhardt also drafted the plan to open over 9 million acres of sage grouse habitat to oil, gas and mining. The sage grouse is a candidate for the endangered species list. And the companies would no longer have to pay into a habitat protection fund.

Here’s how the game works: First give the land to the states. When that happens, the bills for fire control and other land management go to state taxpayers. State officials then say: “We can’t afford that. We’d have to raise taxes.” So they sell the gorgeous Western scenery to the world’s superrich. Other acres go to oil and gas companies at bargain prices. These are the interests that had been funding the politicians all along.

“No trespassing” signs rapidly appear. And the American people — hikers, dog walkers, paddlers, hunters, anglers — lose their right to a natural heritage that used to be free.

Many Western politicians talk as though the federal government grabbed the land within their state borders. They have it backward. The federal government owned that land before their states were states. Of course, local needs should be taken into account in deciding how that land is used. Fortunately, the federal government provides for a good deal of community input.

Whattabout Barack Obama? Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, a Bernhardt fan, charged that Obama’s interior secretary Sally Jewell had worked for an oil company. Jewell did work as an oil engineer for three years. She then went to Rainier Bank, which she advised to steer clear of the oil and gas sector (good counsel at the time). Her big job, however, was chief operating officer of REI, seller of outdoors gear.

Outdoor recreation companies are avid promoters of protecting the environment, for obvious reasons. They are also an $887 billion-a-year industry employing 7.6 million Americans, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

The Obama administration did designate some sensitive public land for industrial purposes but with greater restrictions on construction of pipelines and roads. Drilling during sage grouse mating season was banned.

To obscure his controversial history, Bernhardt has been playing the hunter’s best friend. He talks a lot about “considering” protections for big game species. He just announced he’d expand a Zinke-era order to protect migration corridors.

As we’ve learned, orders are not actions. In the year since the order, nearly 20 percent of the Interior Department leases to oil and gas have been within these corridors. In New Mexico, 82 percent of the leases threaten mule deer, elk and pronghorn migrations. The slashing of Bears Ears opens a premier elk hunting area to industrialization.

And don’t you love that picture of the bearded Washington, D.C., lobbyist out in the field in camo, landing a moose?

With Republicans holding a Senate majority, Bernhardt’s confirmation is all but guaranteed. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.